Fake Blues: Exposures of Forgeries and their Aftermaths

Date / time
Date(s) - 24 April
2:00 pm - 7:00 pm


This workshop will investigate the unhappy state of mind of those people in history who have been taken in by fakes and forgeries, as well as the afterlives of forged texts. What effect did the exposure and revelation of their gullibility have on the reception of forgeries? The Donation of Constantine, for example, was defended by high-ranking members of the Catholic Church for another century after Lorenzo Valla’s astute criticism. The Reformation lent further urgency to these discussions, when polemicists on both sides of the confessional divide – Catholic and Protestant – often accepted or rejected the results of the humanists on the basis of religious and political expediency.

To date, many historians have focused their attention on the discussion of forgery in ecclesiastical history. This workshop therefore aims to move beyond this genre, to discuss the study of forgery in other disciplines, such as the history of science, literature and art. It will ask questions such as: what were the similarities and differences in the reception of legends, myths, falsely attributed texts and forged documents? How did invention, translation, and circulation of texts inflect upon one another? And finally, how were more everyday objects such as safe-conducts or letters of recommendation subject to scrutiny as fakes or frauds, and how were those carrying them able to ‘prove’ their identities?

Programme: 24 April 2020

2.00pm: Welcome and Introduction, Stefan Bauer and Sam Kennerley*

2.15pm-3.15pm: Chair: Scott Mandelbrote (Cambridge)

  • Alfred Hiatt (Queen Mary): The Donation of Constantine in 1439
  • Ovanes Akopyan (Warburg Institute): “Moscus, father of the Muscovites”: the history of a Renaissance forgery and its aftermath*

3.15pm-4.15pm: Chair: Michael Moriarty (Cambridge)

  • Andreea Badea (Frankfurt am Main): Celebrating the glimpse through the keyhole: Antoine Varillas and the commercialization of the forged sources
  • Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh (Cambridge): “Pas si candide, M. Voltaire”: the weaponisation of the Ezourvedam in the emergence of theories of human genesis, 1760-1799*

4.15pm-4.40pm: Joanna Urbanek (Brussels): Preview of the exhibition “Fake for real:a history of forgery and falsification”, House of European History, Brussels*

4.40pm-5.45pm: Chair: Bridget Kendall (Cambridge)

  • Emmett Sullivan (Royal Holloway): The falsification of history through image manipulation
  • Daisy Dixon (Cambridge): Lies in art*

5.45pm: Book presentation (Stefan Bauer, The Invention of Papal History, Oxford University Press 2020) and Wine reception

Location: Peterhouse, Upper Hall, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RD

The link for registration is: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fake-blues-exposures-of-forgeries-and-their-aftermaths-tickets-96084959701.

Event website: https://fakeblues.home.blog/