Candidate Profile

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History - Art & Culture
History - General
Travel & Destinations
Vikings & Scandinavia
Alabamian Ray Carson Russell has spent his life near rivers; from the shores of the mighty Tennessee, where his ancestors floated downriver to found the city of Tuscumbia, to the banks of the famous Main and Danube Rivers in Southern Germany, where he has resided for 45 years, living his passion for history in everyday surroundings. 

After serving in the US Army, he studied history and international relations at the University of Alabama, the University of Munich, the Center for Mediterranean Studies in Rome, Italy, and the University of Southern California European Program.

For over 20 years Ray worked for American universities in Europe. He has published articles on ethnicity in international politics, democracy and issues of conflict and peace. He is also the author of various articles on travel and topics of general cultural interest. More recently, he and his wife have lectured on ships as National Geographic Historians and cultural speakers for Lindblad, Hapag-Lloyd, Sea Cloud, Silversea, Celebrity and other cruise lines. They have travelled to some 45 countries.

Ray and his musician wife Lucy reside in a small Franconian city in Bavaria. He works as a translator, editor, lecturer and writer and is nearing publication of a novel. Aside from these professional activities, Ray serves on the board of a musical-cultural association, is a museum volunteer, acts in a local theater group, practices trumpet and tai chi chuan and enjoys gardening. He gives lectures in both English and German and enjoys conversing in Italian. 

Powerpoint Enrichment Topics by Ray Carson Russell

* 2000 Years Toward European Unification
There have been six serious attempts to unify Europe by the Romans, the Holy Roman Empire, the Hanse, Napoleon, Hitler and the present European Union. Some of these attempts have focused on war, others on commerce.
* The Multicultural Danube
The Danube, which stretches from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, links lands with distinct cultures, cuisines, landscapes and peoples speaking different languages. Their folklore is as brilliant as their history is turbulent.
* The Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs
Guided by the ideals of Christianity the Holy Roman Empire perpetrated the civilizing culture of antiquity for 1000 years. With brief interruptions the Habsburgs were emperors for 400 years and continued to rule over a vast empire in Central, Eastern and Balkan Europe until the end of WWI.
* Enlightened Habsburg Rulers
Both Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II, became truly enlightened absolutist emperors in Vienna. Though opposed to the French Revolution, their peaceful reigns accomplished many Enlightenment goals.

* Richard the Lion-Hearted and The Crusades
King of England just before 1200, Richard the Lion-Hearted was in England only twice: once for his coronation and once to raise money for the Crusades. Most of his time was spent fighting in France and in the Holy Land.
* The Magna Carta: The Beginnings of Democracy in England
The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in history as it established the principle of the rule of law, thus laying a cornerstone of modern democracy.
* Vikings Ahoy! Raiders and Rulers in the British Isles and Beyond
The Scandinavian Vikings raided Lindesfarne in 793 and later founded Limerick and Dublin. Sailing to every corner of Europe and to America 500 years before Columbus, they left lasting impressions with their longships, trade, audacity, bravery, ransom and law.
* Harbors, Commerce, Hegemony (GB – NL – B)
These three aspects bound the trading cities in their efforts to attain wealth, power and rulership. Wool traded in London was made into cloth in Bruges and shipped to distant lands from Amsterdam and Lübeck. Europe was indeed interwoven!
* The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
From a best-selling book to a 2018 movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society wins our hearts through a vivid exchange of letters about literature and romance during the German occupation of the Channel Island in WWII. (Duo lecture with Ray Carson Russell)

* A Short History of France
France is a blend of Celtic, Roman and Germanic cultures, which has evolved as one of the most influential countries of the world – a leader in art, music, literature and cuisine.
* The Hundred Years’ War
This lengthy conflict between England and France in the 1400s marked a dramatic turning point in European history, which resulted in a sense of national identity in both countries, as well as the continuous use of firearms.
* Napoleon Changes Europe
Aside from dismantling the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon established a Civil Code for all of Europe, established the metric system and changed the direction of traffic flow in use since Roman times.

* Moorish Spain: Invasion, Tolerance and Learning
Arriving first in 711 the Moors spread throughout Spain and into France, both conquering and setting examples of tolerance, culture and learning. Moorish Spain also brought toothpaste, street lights and paved streets, plus multilingual translations of the ancients.
* When Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue
Christopher Columbus struggled to set sail from southern Spain for India in 1492, but with the support of international bankers and the Spanish royals Ferdinand and Isabella, he made four memorable journeys and rediscovered the New World.
* Why the Portuguese Are Not Spanish
Portugal became a stable kingdom under English influence long before Spain, which was unified under Ferdinand and Isabella. In 1494, however, the New World was divided equally between these two countries for rulership and exploration.

* The Italian Renaissance
The rebirth of learning from Classical Greece and Rome began in Italy around 1300 and spread to the rest of Europe, initiating new movements from ancient sources in the arts, sciences and philosophy, which define the modern world.
* Diocletian & Constantine: Rescue and Christianization of the Roman Empire
The four-emperor rule under Diocletian, followed by the autocratic domination of the first Christian Emperor Constantine, provided the last flourishing of the Roman Empire and shaped the history and culture of Western Civilization.
* The Etruscans: Italy’s First Great Civilization: Writing as the Ox Ploughs
The Etruscans, Italy’s first great civilization 500 years before the Roman Republic, ruled from Bologna to Naples. Their emancipation of women and their non-Indo-European language were remarkable.
* Machiavelli – The End Justifies the Means
Machiavelli’s political philosophy in his book The Prince stresses the importance of achieving goals by any means; but in other works, he lends credence to virtue and moral character. Which end should justify which means?
* Sicily: A Cultural Melting Pot
Crowned by the volcano Etna, the Italian island of Sicily became a melting pot of influences. Ruled by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish, Sicily still exhibits remnants of this cultural heritage in its customs, language, art and view of life. (Duo lecture with Lucy Hallman Russell)

* The Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece
Democratic nations today owe much to the passion, intellect and philosophical thought of ancient Greece. An overview of the practice of democracy under Pericles and others, with ideas for good government of Plato and Aristotle.
* Greek Philosophers: White Roosters, Hemlock and the Good Life
The basis of Western philosophical thought began ca 600 BCE in Greece and included thinkers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato. They wrote on ethics, politics and aesthetics and formulated their ideas in often amusing ways.
* Cultures of the Black Sea
The Black Sea was home to many peoples and cultures who left their imprint, from Greeks, Turks and Bulgarians to Romans, Romanians, Hittites and Goths. A closer look at their legacy.
* Cultures of the Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea was home to many ancient cultures, including the Cycladic culture with modernist abstract marble figures, the Minoans who furthered trade and the arts, as well as the war-like Myceneans who persisted until around 1200 BCE, despite the Santorini volcanic eruption.
* Everyday Life in Ancient Greece
Women remain at home, men are off to war or out drinking, slaves tend to labor and education. From marriage to burial customs, theater to Olympic games, everyday life in Ancient Greece becomes vivid. (Duo lecture with Lucy Hallman Russell)
* The Turkish/Ottoman Heritage from the Black Sea to Vienna
Some 500 years of hegemony by the Ottoman Turks have left an enduring legacy in Europe from the Black Sea to Vienna, from turbans and flaky pastry to mosques and handwoven carpets, as well as architecture.

* Vikings Ahoy! From Raiders to Rulers
The Scandinavian Vikings sailed to every corner of Europe, to Russia and Constantinople, leaving lasting impressions with their long ships, trade, audacity, bravery, ransom and law.
* The German Hanse: Medieval Traders and Transmitters of Culture
The German Hanse followed the Vikings with trade dominance over three centuries in the Baltic and North Seas. A forerunner of the European Union, the Hanse proved that commerce was more powerful than language, royalty or geography.
* No More Beards! Peter the Great Makes Russia Modern
Peter the Great transformed Russia from backwardness to modernity. He required Western European clothing and forbade beards, while taking control of the Baltic Sea from Sweden, the Black and Caspian Seas from the Ottoman Empire.
* Norway: Codfish, Lofoten, Polar Lights
Stockfish (codfish dried on poles) and tran or fish oil from the northern Lofoten islands of Norway were long the primary sources of income. Now the spectacular scenery, never setting sun and the winter polar lights attract tourists from all over the globe.
* Norway: Lively, Rich and Green – Oslo
From the Hardanger fiddle to the Viking Oseberg ship, the modernistic opera house to the Nobel Prizes, Oslo shows the rich heritage, vivacious present and ecological standpoints of Norway.

Further topics on request, also tailor-made. Also available as Duo Speaker with Lucy Hallman Russell.
Extensive cruise lecturer experience includes the entire Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black Sea, European Atlantic, Norwegian Fjords and Baltic Sea/Russia, plus the Rhine, Upper and Lower Danube. Fluent in German, conversational Italian.
Since 2006 Ray Russell has been active as cultural historian for National Geographic/ Lindblad Expeditions, plus Princess, Sea Cloud, Hapag-Lloyd, Silversea, Celebrity. Travels to 45 countries; passionate about general and cultural history, international relations; excellent knowledge of all Europe, plus Russia and China.
Available also as Duo Speaker with Lucy Hallman Russell