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Matthew Connelly
Matthew Connelly

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

Historian who chronicled misguided movement
to control global population will speak at NIU

Matthew Connelly will deliver Oct. 23 W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture

DeKalb, Ill. — Historian Matthew Connelly, who has achieved worldwide acclaim with his 2008 book on the misguided movement to control global population, will visit Northern Illinois University this month to deliver the fifth annual installment of the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series.

Connelly's book, “Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population,” is the first global history of the population control movement. It has received full-length reviews from the likes of Nature, The Economist, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor.

The Times of London says Connelly “has delivered a devastating account of the population-control movement; he demonstrates, detail by shocking detail, how a movement that believed it was acting from the highest humanitarian ideals became responsible for callous abuses of human rights on a global scale, ruining millions of lives in a grotesque eugenic experiment.”

Connelly will deliver the W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium. Copies of Connelly’s new book will be available for purchase, and the author will conduct a book signing at the event, which is free and open to the public.

His lecture, which will include a question-and-answer session, is titled, “The Perils of Global Governance, The Imperative of Global History.”

“Humanitarian movements have often promised to ‘make poverty history,’ but too often they neglect the lessons of history,” Connelly says. “Historians share responsibility, since they have only begun to offer more critical studies of the United Nations and the leading NGOs.

“The rise and fall of the population control movement provides a case in point,” he adds. “It shows how misguided aid campaigns can do long-term damage, and not just by failing the people they purport to serve. How do we come up with transnational solutions for transnational problems without simply creating new kinds of unaccountable power?”

Connelly is an associate professor of history at Columbia University and serves as director of the Columbia University and London School of Economics Master’s Degree Program in International and World History.

“He’s achieved almost celebrity status with ‘Fatal Misconception,’ ” says NIU Distinguished Research Professor David Kyvig.

“It’s an important book,” he adds. “By examining population control, a global topic of enormous complexity and importance, and carefully considering the consequences of a century of Western efforts to reduce birth rates in the non-Western world, Connelly illuminates a host of issues and demonstrates how the study of the past can help in dealing with fundamental challenges now confronting America and the world.”

Connelly has been named a “Top Young Historian” by History News Network and has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Sovern Fellowship from The American Academy in Rome and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Fellowship.

Over the last decade Connelly has been seeking new ways to understand the historical origins of contemporary world politics. His first book, “A Diplomatic Relation,” described how rebels can harness their cause to global trends to isolate and defeat an empire.

In addition to publishing in academic journals in the U.S. and Europe, he has written articles on foreign policy for The Atlantic Monthly and The National Interest and commented on current affairs for the media, including The New York Times and The History Channel. More information about him can be found at

Connelly’s talk represents the fifth installment of the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series. It has brought such notable speakers to NIU as renowned religion scholar Martin Marty, journalist Mark Danner and prominent historians Walter LaFeber and Lizabeth Cohen.

The endowed lecture series is named in honor of the late W. Bruce Lincoln, a world-renowned historian of Russia who taught on the NIU faculty for more than three decades until his retirement in 1998. In 1982, Lincoln was among the first group of NIU faculty members awarded Presidential Research Professorships, an honor bestowed on the university’s top scholars.

The recipient of many grants and awards, Lincoln possessed a lifelong passion for learning and a gift for writing. He was author of a dozen books, several of which gained a wide audience among the general public.

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