Nancy MacLean – The Pre-History—and Likely Sequels—of the Insurrection at the US Capitol


Nancy MacLean – The Pre-History—and Likely Sequels—of the Insurrection at the US Capitol

People from the Save America rally breach the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021 (photograph © Debra Reschoff Ahearn |

A part of a two-day conference entitled “Political Violence: From the Storming of the US Capitol to the March on Rome,” hosted by the American Academy in Rome, this first keynote speech will be delivered by the American historian Nancy MacLean. A second keynote will be given by Alexander Hinton.

The attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, was the most violent assault on democracy in modern US history. It has since become clear that then-President Trump and a coterie of his closest advisors incited the attack on Congress to abet a coup that would overrule the voters’ choice. The House select committee charged with investigating these events has identified three rings of activity: a large, less complicit, outer circle of avid Trump voters, a smaller number of resolute white-power revolutionaries, and a suited inner circle that strategized to overthrow the election, exploiting federalism to achieve its ends. Nancy MacLean’s talk will explain how each three of these elements is the product of decades of intentional cultivation. Indeed, as her 2017 book Democracy in Chains showed and subsequent research has elaborated, what we are seeing in the US today is the coming together of a network of arch-right corporate donors determined to remake the world, a major political party their grantees have radicalized beyond recognition, and actions on the spectrum of vigilantism in multiple arenas being spurred by highly profitable media outlets. If we don’t reckon with the deep historical roots of what happened this time last year, those events could be a pilot for and prologue to a far worse outcome in the future—not least because this cause is transnational, and intentionally seeding kindred developments on other continents.

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University and the author of several award-winning books, most recently, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. A New York Times Best Seller, it was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2017 and the winner of the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Current Affairs and the 2018 Lillian Smith Book Award for outstanding writing about the American South. In 2021–22, she is researching a new book as the John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center.

The lecture will be given in English.

This event, to be presented in person at the Academy as well as on Zoom, is free and open to the public. To attend online, please register for Zoom in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.


Space in the Villa Aurelia is limited, and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you plan to attend an event with a group of over six guests or students, please inform events [at] (events[at]aarome[dot]org) with at least 48 hours prior notice so that special arrangements can be made.

Guests will be asked to comply with Covid-19 safety protocols for events:

  • Access to the Academy requires the presentation of a valid photo ID and a Super Green Pass
  • FFP2 masks are required when indoors, and temperature will be checked before entry
  • Visitor contact information may be shared for contact tracing

Please contact events [at] (events[at]aarome[dot]org) with any questions.

Backpacks and luggage with dimensions larger than 40 x 35 x 15 cm (16 x 14 x 6 in.) are not permitted on the property. There are no locker facilities available.

Giorno e ora
giovedì 10 febbraio 2022
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Roma, Italia