Event—Adult Education

Erasing History: Destroying Knowledge from Ancient Times to the Present


Three Suns and Book Burning, 1493. Source: Beloit College via Wikimedia Commons.

Class Description

Explore the destruction of knowledge, abroad and at home, intentional and unintentional, and its impact on civilization. We will focus on the most recent manifestations of this phenomenon in the United States, but a brief overview of attempts to erase the past from ancient times to the present—and various political, cultural, and religious motives—will help us understand what is new and what is not.

We will also look at such examples of censorship as book burning, erecting and destroying public monuments, the struggle over “whose history” is taught in school, and examine the internet and other forms of technology as sources of information, misinformation, and disinformation.

Bryan LeBeau earned his PhD from New York University. He has taught at various colleges and universities, most recently at Georgetown and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is an American cultural historian and the author of several books on related subjects.

Materials List

Recommended Materials

  • Richard Ovenden, Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge. Harvard University Press, 2022. ISBN: 978-0674241206 (Please Note: This book is out of print, but copies are available at the Chicago Public Library. You can also find used copies for sale at online stores like AbeBooks.)

Optional First Reading

  • Read the Introduction to Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge.

Cost and Registration

4 sessions, $200 ($180 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member

We now offer our classes at three different price options: Regular ($200), Community Supported ($190), and Sponsor ($210). Following the models of other institutions, we want to ensure that our classes are accessible to a wider audience while continuing to support our instructors. You may choose the price that best fits your situation when registering through Learning Stream.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


Support the Newberry

Your generosity is vital in keeping the library’s programs, exhibitions, and reading rooms free and accessible to everyone.

Make a Gift


Call us at (312) 255-3700 or send us an email at adulteducation@newberry.org.

Email Us