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Preview: The National Archives Podcast Series

The National Archives Podcast Series

Listen to talks, lectures and other events presented by The National Archives of the United Kingdom.

Last Build Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Copyright: Copyright: (C) The National Archives, see for terms and conditions of reuse

Blindness in Victorian Britain

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:00:00 GMT

This talk traces how blind and visually-impaired people in the Victorian era became increasingly vocal in seeking control and ownership over the social and political issues that directly affected them, and introduces some of the era’s most prominent and influential blind campaigners.

Heather Tilley is a British Academy postdoctoral research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She has recently curated an exhibition at Birkbeck on the history of assistive reading technologies for blind people and a display of prominent blind and visually-impaired people for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Media Files:

A tourist's guide to Shakespeare's London

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Discover what it was like to wander the streets of Shakespeare's London. Though large portions of the city from Shakespeare's time have since been destroyed by fire, war and developers, a surprising number of buildings and places still survive.

Author David Thomas discusses the sights, cuisine and pastimes of 16th century Londoners, while providing insight into what it was like to be a tourist during Shakespeare's lifetime.

Please note that there are occasional disruptions to the sound quality during this recording.

Media Files:

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:00:00 GMT

In this podcast, Julian Harrison discusses Magna Carta's fascinating history and legacy, focusing on some of the key loans made by The National Archives to the British Library's 'Magna Carta' exhibition in 2015.

Julian Harrison is a curator of Pre-1600 Historical Manuscripts at the British Library, and is also co-curator of 'Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy'. He is a specialist in medieval history, and is also editor of the Library's award-winning Medieval Manuscripts blog.

Media Files:

Prisoners of war in the Far East

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Prisoners of war in the Far East experienced some of the most horrifying and traumatic conditions of the Second World War. But what of the experiences of family members and loved ones left at home during this time?

In this podcast, writer Hilary Custance Green talks about her new book ‘Surviving the Death Railway', which is based on her father's personal experiences. Using original records from our collection, Hilary explores how prisoners and their loved ones coped at this time and attempted to rebuild their lives at the end of hostilities.

Media Files:

England's Immigrants between 1330 and 1550

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT

This talk explores a new research database which provides an insight into immigration in England in the late medieval period. The database holds around 65,000 names of immigrants who were living in England between 1330 and 1550.

Dr Jonathan Mackman and Dr Jessica Lutkin introduce this new resource, a project by the University of York, in partnership with the Humanities Research Institute and The National Archives.

Media Files:

Simply a Jacobite woman? The life experience of Lady Nairne

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Lady Nairne was a noted Jacobite who played an important part in rousing support for the risings of both 1715 and 1745. This talk draws upon letters and papers to examine the experiences of Lady Nairne and other Jacobite women during and after the risings.

Dr Nicola Cowmeadow is a Carnegie Scholar with an ongoing interest in women in history – her doctoral thesis was on 'Scottish Noblewomen, the Family and Scottish politics, 1688-1707' (2012). She is also the Local History Officer for Perth and Kinross working in Local and Family History at AK Bell Library, Perth.

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Worn out by war: Disabled soldiers and their pensions

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT

How can military records help us to reconstruct and understand the lives of disabled people and their families in the 18th and 19th centuries? This talk will explore how the pension records of the Royal Hospital of Chelsea (home of the famous Chelsea Pensioners) can be used to gain insight into the lives of disabled veterans.

Dr Caroline Nielsen is a lecturer at the University of Northampton and specialises in the history of disability and war.

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First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Sonia Purnell presents the inspiring but often ignored story of one of the most important women in modern history – the original 'First Lady'. Discover the fascinating story of her influence on Britain's wartime leader, through the Churchills' 'wilderness years' in the 1930s, to Clementine's desperate efforts to preserve her husband's health during the struggle against Hitler.

Sonia Purnell is a journalist and author.

Media Files:

Writer of the month: Mike Pitts on 'Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King'

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:00:00 GMT

To accompany the publication of his book 'Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King', Mike Pitts discusses the achievements, disputes and controversies surrounding the discovery of Richard III's skeleton.

Mike Pitts is an archaeologist and award–winning journalist and broadcaster. He has recently co-directed an excavation at Stonehenge and led a pioneering study of an Easter Island statue. For the last ten years Mike has edited Britain's leading archaeological magazine, British Archaeology.

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Big Data and the gendering of Parliamentary language

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Luke Blaxill discusses the ways in which Big Data techniques can introduce quantification into long-standing historical debates. His example is the case of female MPs in the House of Commons. How is the language they use different to that of male MPs and do they represent “women's issues” more effectively than men? Blaxill uses text mining techniques to investigate the feminist claim that women's contributions in the Commons are substantively different to men's and whether any “gender effect” is strengthening or weakening with the rise in female numbers, especially since 1997.

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England '66: The best of times?

Wed, 13 Jul 2016 15:00:00 GMT

It was a year when England won the World Cup and led the world in all aspects of popular culture, including pop music, fashion, and film. But it was also a time of sterling crises, wage and price freezes, and industrial strife. Contemporary specialist Mark Dunton looks at a nation caught between optimism and decline.

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100 years of the WI: The acceptable face of feminism

Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:00:00 GMT

Professor Maggie Andrews discusses some of the key campaigns and concerns of the Women's Institute, from its origins in the First World War to the 1950s when, with half a million members, it was firmly established as the largest women's organisation in Britain.

Maggie is a Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester; she has published widely on women, domesticity and the home front in 20th century Britain.

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Writer of the Month: Richard Barnett on Crucial Interventions

Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:00:00 GMT

In this talk medical historian Richard Barnett explores surgery during the 19th century, from the application of antisepsis to experiments with hypnosis. What happened in the early operations that used anaesthesia, and why were patients initially reluctant to agree to it?

Richard Barnett is a writer and broadcaster on the cultural history of science and medicine. He teaches on the Pembroke-Kings Programme in Cambridge, and in 2011 received one of the first Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowships. His books include Medical London: City of Diseases: City of Cures, The Sick Rose (described by Will Self in the Guardian as 'superbly lucid and erudite') and Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, which was published by Thames & Hudson in cooperation with the Wellcome Collection in October 2015.

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Amiable Warriors: A History of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 15:00:00 GMT

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) is the oldest surviving LGBT organisation in the UK. With more than 150 local branches and over 6,000 members, it has grown from a small regional committee lobbying for law reform with local MPs, into Britain's largest democratic gay organisation.

Playwright and journalist Peter Scott-Presland examines CHE's roots in Manchester, the traditions it grew out of, and the secret of its survival and ultimate success

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Big Ideas: The Future of the Past

Wed, 08 Jun 2016 16:00:00 GMT

This presentation discusses the role that the material and intellectual heritage of a community can play in shaping and reshaping its identity, along a historical continuum. With a brief history of the Ismaili Muslims in focus, the presentation highlights some of the challenges faced by the modern Ismaili community in conservation of, and engaging with their heritage, dating back over a millennium. The talk features the heritage conservation initiatives organised by the community, especially in digital media, together with some of the finest pieces from the institutional archives and collections.

Zehra Lalji is among the key contributors who created the heritage sites archive at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS). At present, she serves the Institute as the Website Productions Officer, where she is leading a number of creative digital adaptations based on the Institute's published research.

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Stalin's Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess

Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:00:00 GMT

Guy Burgess was a brilliant young Englishman who rose through the ranks of MI5 and MI6 during the Cold War. But as a member of 'The Cambridge Spies', he betrayed his country by regularly passing on highly sensitive secret documents to his Soviet handlers.

Historian Andrew Lownie, author of 'Stalin's Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess' - a Guardian Book of the Year and The Times Best Biography of the Year - will talk about how Burgess was able to avoid exposure as a traitor to his country through his trademark charisma and a network of powerful political connections.

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Shell-Shocked Britain: Understanding the lasting trauma of the First World War

Wed, 25 May 2016 16:00:00 GMT

Millions of soldiers were scarred by their experiences in the First World War trenches, but how new was what we now know as 'shell shock'? What treatments were on offer? And what happened after the men came home?

Writer and researcher Suzie Grogan reveals the First World War's legacy for soldiers and looks at the impact of the Spanish influenza outbreak, air raids on the Home Front, the trauma experienced by the survivors, and why the conflict still resonates into the 21st century.

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Heidi Thomas: Researching Call the Midwife

Wed, 18 May 2016 16:00:00 GMT

Screenwriter Heidi Thomas shares the process of transforming Jennifer Worth's memoirs into the BBC period drama 'Call the Midwife', a TV series about midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s

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Materiality matters: new approaches to medieval wax seal studies

Mon, 07 Mar 2016 16:00:00 GMT

Wax seals have been widely studied in terms of how they look, what they depict and what they might mean. But their physical characteristics and their importance as a method of communication are still not fully understood.

Our 'Wax Seals in Context' project investigated the material composition, manufacture and use of medieval wax seals, to understand how this important medium of communication was made. It used visual examination, material analysis and archival evidence.

The project focused on English royal and governmental seals of the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Magna Carta - what's so 'great' about the charter?

Wed, 30 Dec 2015 09:00:00 GMT

We apologise for the variable sound quality of this podcast.

This year is the 800th anniversary of the granting of Magna Carta - King John's Great Charter. This charter guaranteed a number of vital rights and privileges and is still seen as being the foundation of many modern liberties. To mark this important anniversary, we are holding a range of events and exhibitions.

In this discussion chaired by Dr Sophie Ambler world experts come together to debate the importance of Magna Carta.

Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at University of East Anglia, is an expert on 12th and 13th century English and European political and administrative history, and author of Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012). He is the Honorary Secretary of the Pipe Roll Society.

Louise Wilkinson, Professor of Medieval History, Christ Church College Canterbury, is an expert on women in the age of Magna Carta, and 13th-century political and administrative history. She is the honorary General Editor of the Pipe Roll Society.

Paul Brand, Professor of English Legal History and Emeritus Fellow at All Souls Oxford, is an expert on English and Irish legal history, specialising in 13th-century law. He is the Honorary Treasurer of the Pipe Roll Society.

David Crook, formerly of The National Archives, is one of the leading experts on medieval records and forest law.

David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History at King's College London, is an expert on the reign of Henry III (1216-72) and author of Magna Carta (Penguin, 2015).

Media Files:

Using the 1939 Register: Recording the UK population before the war

Tue, 22 Dec 2015 09:00:00 GMT

The preparations had been made well in advance. Now Britain was at war, and as the uniformed army prepared to face the enemy, a civilian army was mobilised at home. National Registration Officers, registrars, and 65,000 enumerators set about the huge task of registering every man, woman and child in a single weekend. It all went remarkably smoothly. This is the story of the 1939 Register for England and Wales, how it was taken, and what happened next.

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For king and another country: Indian soldiers on the Western Front

Tue, 15 Dec 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Over a million Indian soldiers fought in the First World War, many travelling from remote villages in India to the muddy trenches of France and Flanders.

In her book For King and Another Country, writer and journalist, Shrabani Basu, delves into archives in Britain and narratives buried in villages in India and Pakistan. She recreates the War through the eyes of the Indians who fought it, and examines how the war led, ultimately, to the call for independence.

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Writer of the month: A history of war in 100 battles

Tue, 8 Dec 2015 09:00:00 GMT

'Battle is not a game to plug into a computer but a piece of living history: messy, bloody and real.'

Richard Overy, Professor of History at the University of Exeter, Fellow of the British Academy and Member of the European Academy for Science and Arts, will discuss his latest book that distils the history of warfare into 100 momentous battles, recording epic moments that have shaped our world.

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Big Ideas: Freedom of Memory: A new human right?

Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:00:00 GMT

This presentation introduces the concept of Freedom of Memory, which Elizabeth is currently developing. The talk proposes a possible definition for this potential new human right and explain why such a Freedom is necessary at this point in time. The presentation identifies both the benefits and responsibilities arising from Freedom of Memory. This session will also encourage discussion with attendees to consider whether such a freedom is necessary, how it could be improved and in what fora this concept could fruitfully be developed.

Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan is a professional Archivist and qualified Management Consultant. She has run her own consultancy since 2003, working right across the archives sector throughout the UK as well as with policy bodies and professional organisations.

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Security Service file release October 2015: Discussion

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Stephen Twigge head of modern collections at The National Archives in conversation with Professor Christoper Andrew former official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', and Gill Bennett former chief historian of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, discussing one of the most famous spy cases in history along with some other highlights from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in October 2015.

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Security Service file release October 2015: Introduction

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Professor Christopher Andrew, formerly official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', introduces key files from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in October 2015.

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Barbara Hepworth, her life and work

Thu, 22 Oct 2015 13:00:00 GMT

Barbara Hepworth's life and work examined through records held by selected archives, including The National Archives and the Tate archives, marking the 40th anniversary of her death

Inga Fraser is Assistant Curator of Modern British Art 1890-1945 at Tate Britain and assistant to curators of the exhibition, Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World at Tate Britain. Briony Paxman is a modern records specialist at The National Archives.

Morwenna Roche and Bianca Rossmann from Tate Archives discuss their project to catalogue Barbara Hepworth's personal and professional papers, which provide a fascinating and rich insight into her life and work.

This podcast was recorded live in July 2015, as part of an afternoon of events at The National Archives, Kew.

We apologise for the variable sound quality of this podcast.

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First World War rugby and the first World Cup

Fri, 16 Oct 2015 09:00:00 GMT

When Britain's Empire went to war in August 1914, rugby players were among the first men to volunteer. Leading from the front, they paid a high price. After four long years, Armistice came and it was time to play rugby again. In 1919, Twickenham saw the crowning of the first ever rugby world champions.

Hear award-winning author, Stephen Cooper, tell the story behind his new book, After the Final Whistle: The First Rugby World Cup and The First World War. Stephen is also the winner of Rugby Book of the Year 2013 with his previous First World War sporting work, The Final Whistle: The Great War in Fifteen Players

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'Over the top: a foul a blurry foul' - the first football charge of the First World War

Fri, 2 Oct 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Our collection of First World War records is one of the largest in the world. It includes, among many other documents, service records, letters, diaries, maps and photographs. Part of Britain's folk memory of the First World War is of long lines of Tommies bravely going over the top, resolutely kicking and passing a football as they walked into a hail of machine gun fire.

Iain Adams, of the International Football Institute, looks at what really happened when the London Irish Rifles performed the first football charge at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915.

The International Football Institute is a research partnership between the University of Central Lancashire and the National Football Museum.

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1939 National Registration Night

Tue, 29 Sep 2015 09:00:00 GMT

In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, the British government introduced an Act that would allow them to gather vital information about the country's population. This information would inform their decisions on identity cards, rationing and conscription.

The night of 29 September 1939 was National Registration Night, and that evening, at 6:30pm, the Registrar General broadcast this message to the nation.

In our collection we have the script (catalogue reference RG 28/164) of the Registrar General's broadcast, read here by Gary Thorpe.

Media Files:

Kew lives - reconstructing the past

Fri, 25 Sep 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Emily Ward-Willis explains how to research the local history of an area, using the Mortlake Terrace shops in Kew as a case study.

The talk will show how you can use records held by The National Archives, and other archives and local studies centres, to research local history.

This talk was recorded live as part of the Know Your Place festival, a celebration of the heritage of Richmond upon Thames. We apologise for any intermittent reduction in sound quality.

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Writer of the month: Peter Doggett - Electric shock: From the gramophone to the iPhone

Thu, 17 Sep 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Peter Doggett argues that from the birth of recording in the 19th century to the digital age, popular music has transformed the world in which we live. It has influenced our morals and social mores; it has transformed our attitudes towards race and gender, religion and politics.

Peter Doggett has been writing about popular music and cultural history for more than 30 years. He is the author of Electric shock: From the gramophone to the iPhone - 125 years of pop music, his history of popular music and its impact on everyday life from 1890 to the present day.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers.

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Big Ideas: On pilgrimage in England

Fri, 11 Sep 2015 09:00:00 GMT

The 1930s saw a resurgence of interest in local knowledge and traditions, and intense debate about how it might be possible to 'go modern' while honouring the past. Alexandra Harris looks back on her research for Romantic Moderns, remembering how she followed modern British artists and writers as they went 'on pilgrimage in England'. She also shows how that pilgrimage led her far back into Roman and Anglo-Saxon history in a quest to find out how the English weather has been differently imagined across the centuries.

Alexandra Harris is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool, a BBC New Generation Thinker, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She won the Guardian First Book Award and a Somerset Maugham Award for her first book, Romantic Moderns: English writers, artists and the imagination, from Virginia Woolf to John Piper. Her literary history of English weather will be published this autumn.

Media Files:

Big Ideas: Innovation in the Air Force

Fri, 04 Sep 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Ross Mahoney's talk is based on sources ranging from operational records held by The National Archives to some of the personal recollections found at other archival institutions and in the memoirs of retired officers. By bringing these together he highlights the difficulties faced by the RAF as it sought to innovate and adapt to the strategic, operational and tactical challenges that it confronted during the inter-war years.

Ross Mahoney is the resident Aviation Historian at Royal Air Force Museum. His research interests include air power history, theory and doctrine, military leadership, military culture, military innovation, and the history of professional military education. In 2011, he was made a West Point Fellow in Military History at the United States Military Academy.

Media Files:

Security Service file release August 2015

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Professor Christopher Andrew, formerly official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', introduces key files from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in August 2015.

Media Files:

Waterloo men: the records of Wellington's Waterloo army

Fri, 14 Aug 2015 09:00:00 GMT

By taking two men who fought at Waterloo and exploring how different records bring their careers to life, Carole Divall demonstrates the hidden stories that can be found within army records.

Carole Divall is a former teacher and now researches, writes and lectures on the Revolutionary Wars.

Media Files:

Dunkirk: from disaster to deliverance

Fri, 07 Aug 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Drawing on fresh new interviews with Dunkirk veterans - soldiers and sailors - plus unseen private correspondence and diaries, author Sinclair McKay delves into a pivotal historical moment and beneath the myth. The story of how a raggle-taggle flotilla of small boats and paddle steamers set out to rescue the British army from the most formidable war machine the world had ever seen is now a national legend. But what really happened during those nine days and nights in 1940?

Sinclair McKay is the bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park and The Secret Listeners, as well as histories of Hammer films, the James Bond films, and Rambling.

Media Files:

Writer of the month: Jenny Uglow

Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Jenny Uglow talks about her book, In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon's Wars, 1793-1815.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers.

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Big Ideas: The women's war in the Middle East - women's First World War service in Egypt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine

Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Nadia Atia is Lecturer in World Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research examines the literature and cultural history of the First World War outside Europe. Her work explores how ideologies of race and empire shaped the ways in which British travellers, archaeologists, servicemen and women from different classes and professional backgrounds interacted with and represented the region now known as Iraq, in the early twentieth-century. In particular, she examines their interactions with the Indian, African, Afro-Caribbean, Egyptian or Chinese workers and military personnel who played such a crucial role in the war, but whose presence is not a familiar one in many accounts of the First World War.

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'The Germans are here!' London's first Zeppelin raid

Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Ten months into the First World War and the feared onslaught on London by Germany's fleet of airships - Zeppelins - had failed to materialise. There was sympathy for those killed or injured in air raids elsewhere, but these were far away and had little impact on Londoners. Then, shortly after 11pm on a Monday night in May 1915, all that changed…Using documents held at The National Archives, interspersed with personal stories of those who experienced that night, Ian Castle explores those terrifying 20 minutes when, for the very first time, London civilians found themselves on the front line.

Ian Castle is author of two books detailing Germany's air campaign against the capital in the First World War - London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-18: The Bomber Blitz. He also runs a website covering all of the First World War air raids.

Media Files:

Writer of the month: Adam Nicolson - Wordsworth's and Coleridge's year together in Somerset, 1797-1798

Mon, 22 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Adam Nicolson discusses his research into his forthcoming book about Wordsworth's and Coleridge's year in Somerset. He used documents in The National Archives which relate to the Home Office's surveillance of the poets in August 1797. Some suspected they might be agents for a French invasion.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. Writer of the month is sponsored by HistoryToday.

Adam Nicolson has worked as a journalist and columnist on the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph and writes regularly for National Geographic Magazine and Granta, where he is a contributing editor.

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Arts and Inspiration Day at The National Archives 2014: Design history and material culture

Fri, 05 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Julie Halls discusses design history and material culture as a potential area for research.

Arts and Inspiration Day is a free event for students thinking of future PhD study which introduces the research potential of The National Archives' collection. This event was held on 17 November 2014.

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Arts and Inspiration Day at The National Archives 2014: Propaganda

Fri, 05 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Simon Demissie looks at Propaganda through the records held at The National Archives, including the wartime posters in INF 3 and the 1970s 'Protect and Survive' Public Information Films.

Arts and Inspiration Day is a free event for students thinking of future PhD study which introduces the research potential of The National Archives' collection. This event was held on 17 November 2014.

Watch the Public Information Films, Action after warnings and Casualties, produced by Richard Taylor Cartoons, with chilling narration by Patrick Allen.

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Arts and Inspiration Day at The National Archives 2014: Maps and plans

Fri, 05 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Rose Mitchell reveals the maps and plans held at The National Archives.

Arts and Inspiration Day is a free event for students thinking of future PhD study which introduces the research potential of The National Archives' collection. This event was held on 17 November 2014.

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Arts and Inspiration Day at The National Archives 2014: Music and lyrics

Fri, 05 Jun 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Jo Pugh reveals the music, lyrics and poetry lurking in diverse records, from Thomas Byrd's pupil, John Bull to songs from Second World War prisoner of war camps.

Arts and Inspiration Day is a free event for students thinking of future PhD study which introduces the research potential of The National Archives' collection. This event was held on 17 November 2014.

Media Files:

Portillo's State Secrets

Fri, 29 May 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Researcher Tommy Norton introduces some of the 30 documents featured in the BBC 2 ten-part television series, Portillo's State Secrets. He also talks about the background to the series.

Originally a journalist on local newspapers and magazines, Tommy spent four years in The National Archives' press office. He is now an independent reesearcher.

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Writer of the month: Helen Castor on Joan of Arc

Fri, 22 May 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Helen Castor in conversation, discussing her new book, Joan of Arc: A history. Find out more about Helen Castor on her website.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. We apologise for any intermittent reduction in sound quality.

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Tracing railway ancestors

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:00:00 GMT

The National Archives holds a vast collection of railway related material, a legacy passed down by hundreds of railway companies which operated in all corners of the UK from 1825 to 1947. Much of this material provides opportunities for local and family historians to discover something new about the history of their ancestors and the areas in which they lived. This talk provides an overview of the railway records held here at Kew, and explores the different sources for tracing railway workers amongst these records.

Chris Heather is currently the Transport Records Specialist in the Advice and Records Knowledge department at The National Archives. He has a particular interest in railway records and family history. Previously he specialised in records of criminals and transportation to Australia.

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Big Ideas: Rapid response collecting

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Rapid Response Collecting is a new strand to the V&A's collecting activity - one that is responsive to global events, situating design in immediate relation to moments of political, economic and social change. Corinna Gardner explores how an IKEA toy wolf, a set of Christian Louboutin shoes in five shades of 'nude', the world's first 3D-printed gun, the mobile game, Flappy Bird, and an all-female LEGO set raise questions of globalisation, mass manufacture, demography and the law.

Corinna Gardner is curator of contemporary product design at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Corinna has worked with colleagues to introduce rapid response collecting as a new strand to the museum's collecting activities. Corinna is also co-curating the forthcoming V&A exhibition, All of This Belongs to You, opening on 1 April 2015.

Media Files:

Vanishing for the Vote: diverse suffragettes boycott the 1911 census

Fri, 6 Mar 2015 09:00:00 GMT

Vanishing for the Vote tells the story of what happened on census night, 2 April 1911. Despite decades of campaigning, no woman had won the right to vote. Suffragettes urged women to boycott the census, proclaiming 'No vote, no census!'. This talk is based on the family census schedules which illustrate the wide diversity of suffrage campaigners - those who complied with the census and those who daringly boycotted.

Jill Liddington is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Her first book, One Hand Tied Behind Us (Virago, 1978), soon became a suffrage classic. Her most recent history, Vanishing for the Vote (MUP, 2014), is based on the The National Archives' census schedules released in 2009.

We apologise for the poor sound quality of this live recording.

This talk was part of The National Archives' Diversity Week, a week designed to highlight the ongoing work across the organisation surrounding the representation of diverse histories.

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Big Ideas: 'An heroic, slow-motion cataloguing of life': ethics and digitisation

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:01 GMT

A culture shift is taking place in the Wellcome Library's Special Collections team. Driven by a growing realisation that past acquisition policies have left patient perspectives on health and well-being woefully under-represented, they have started to re-evaluate what kinds of material may constitute an 'archive'. Focusing on an exciting, non-traditional 'archive' acquired earlier this year, Helen Wakely reflects on the issues and opportunities that such challenging collections present to the Library.

Helen Wakely is Archive Project Manager at the Wellcome Library. She has responsibility for sensitivity assessment and access issues in the library's Special Collections, and takes a special interest in promoting public engagement with its archive collections, particularly in the area of food history.

Media Files:

Writer of the month: My history - Antonia Fraser

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 00:00:01 GMT

Antonia Fraser's memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of History. The fascination began as a child - and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, 'for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life'.

Antonia Fraser is the prize-winning author of many widely acclaimed historical works which have been international bestsellers. She was made DBE in 2011 for services to literature.

This podcast was recorded live at our January 2015 'Writer of the month' event.

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The huns have got my gramophone: advertisements from the Great War

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 00:00:01 GMT

In the nineteenth century, Britain led the world in the production of illustrated books and magazines. By the 1890s, commercial artists often drew for both magazine publishers and advertisers, which gave a continuity of style. Some well-known 21st century brands were already spending heavily on advertising in the 1900s; they understood the value of advertising. And when war broke out in 1914, companies were quick to seize the opportunities which the war offered. They searched for new markets to replace their lost German trade, and invented new products. This talk outlines how the First World War changed the face of advertising.

Amanda-Jane Doran was the archivist at Punch magazine for 13 years. She is an expert in 19th century illustrated books and magazines, and she curated the exhibition Charles Stewart: Black and White Gothic, at the Royal Academy.

Andrew McCarthy directed the documentary film Toys For The Boys, which told the story of how Hew Kennedy built a full-size working replica of a medieval trebuchet (siege machine).

Andrew and Amanda co-wrote The huns have got my gramophone: Advertisements from The Great War (Bodleian Library, 2014).

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Lines on the map: records of international boundaries

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:00:01 GMT

The National Archives holds one of the largest and most important accumulations of maps in the world. They document the United Kingdom's involvement in shaping boundaries and in resolving boundary disputes over many centuries, either as a colonial power, neutral observer or independent source of surveying expertise. Rose Mitchell looks at how the process has been documented, from letters and reports to treaties, drawing on maps and surveys which made lines across sand, snow, water, forests, plains and mountains around the globe.

Rose Mitchell is a map curator at The National Archives. She is co-author of Maps: their untold stories.

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Writer of the month: The Spanish ambassador's suitcase

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 00:00:01 GMT

Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson discuss their new book, The Spanish ambassador's suitcase.

Matthew Parris worked for the Foreign Office and the Conservative Research Department before serving as MP for West Derbyshire. He joined The Times as parliamentary sketchwriter in 1988, a post he held for 13 years, and he now writes as a columnist for the paper. He broadcasts for radio and television, and presents the biographical programme Great Lives on BBC Radio 4. He is also a regular columnist for The Spectator.

Andrew Bryson is a radio journalist working in the BBC's Business and Economics Unit. He frequently produces Radio 4's Today programme and programmes for Radio 5 Live.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. We apologise for any intermittent reduction in sound quality.

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Big Ideas: The shape of time

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 00:00:01 GMT

Visualisation is widely believed to bring many benefits, assisting us in making sense of all kinds of information. To try to make diagrams of history - using timelines or some other kind of chronographics - may seem a simple task. We might regard time as 'obviously' linear, as 'naturally' flowing from left to right. But what shape should history be?

Stephen's talk focuses primarily on the period in the mid-eighteenth century when the modern timeline was invented - tracing its typographic, pictorial and other roots and setting it in its intellectual context. He also gives some insights into the advances we can now achieve when chronographics are made digital and interactive. This will include asking: what are the requirements of such tools for serious historical work?

Stephen Boyd Davis is professor of Design Research at the Royal College of Art. His own work is concerned with visualisation, in which he is directing research students working with museums and archives.

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Newly released files from 1985 and 1986

Tue, 30 Dec 2014 00:00:01 GMT

Contemporary records specialists Mark Dunton and Simon Demissie discuss the latest batch of government records to be released to The National Archives. The years were 1985 and 1986.

Introduced by Rebecca Simpson.

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A game for Christmas: Football on the Western Front, December 1914?

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Any mention of football and the First World War will evoke the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the football match played in No Man's Land. At the time many denied that a truce had occurred, let alone a football match between the combatants. This talk uses British Army War Diaries, individual soldier's diaries, letters and newspapers to examine how citizen diplomacy apparently subverted the wishes of higher command, at least temporarily, to possibly have allowed some soldiers to enjoy a game for Christmas.

Iain Adams is the Principal Lecturer at the International Football Institute, a research partnership between The University of Central Lancashire and The National Football Museum. He lectures in sports history and culture and has published papers on the Christmas Truce and the football charges of the Great War.

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Writer of the month: Tracy Borman on Thomas Cromwell

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Dr Tracy Borman, author, historian and broadcaster, discusses her biography of Thomas Cromwell.

The National Archives hosts a series of monthly talks to broaden awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. Each month, a high-profile author talks about using original records in their writing.

Dr Tracy Borman's previous books include: the highly acclaimed Elizabeth's Women: the Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen; Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror; and Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction. Tracy has recently been appointed interim Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and is also Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

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Big Ideas: The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Cultural Value Project

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:09:00 GMT

The Arts and Humanities Research Council's Cultural Value Project was set up late in 2012 to address the dissatisfaction with the ways in which we understand and articulate the benefits of arts and culture. These tended to concentrate on the publicly-funded arts and, for that reason, were shaped by the demands of advocacy.

For the same reason they increasingly came to focus on the economic benefits because it was believed that that was what governments wished to hear. Professor Geoffrey Crossick presents an overview of the project. His talk indicates the range of research that it has funded and, in doing so, identifies the projects that have focused on archives, heritage and history.

Professor Geoffrey Crossick is Director of the AHRC's Cultural Value Project and Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. He is a historian and his main area of research has been the urban social history of 19th and 20th century Britain and continental Europe.

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Writer of the month: Stories from behind the Berlin Wall

Fri, 05 Dec 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Hester Vaizey discusses her latest book, Born in the GDR: Living in the Shadow of the Wall, which reveals the everyday lives of citizens of the former German Democratic Republic.

The National Archives is again hosting a series of monthly talks to broaden awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. Each month, a high-profile author will talk about using original records in their writing.

Hester Vaizey is a University Lecturer in Modern German History and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. Her book Surviving Hitler's War: Family Life in Germany 1939-1948, was shortlisted for the Women's History Network Prize and won the Fraenkel Prize for Contemporary History.

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Paddy Ashdown: The Cruel Victory

Fri, 28 Nov 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Paddy Ashdown discusses his new book, The Cruel Victory, which tells the long-neglected D-Day story of the Resistance uprising and subsequent massacre on the Vercors massif - the largest action by the French Resistance during the Second World War.

Overlooked by English language histories, Ashdown sets the story in the context of D-Day, the muddle of politics and the many misjudgements of D-Day planners in both London and Algiers. Most importantly it also gives voice to the many fighters who fought to gain a stake in their country's future.

Lord Paddy Ashdown served as a Royal Marine and as an intelligence officer for the UK security services before becoming a Member of Parliament for Yeovil from 1983 to 2001, and leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until 1999. He was the international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006 and was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in 2006.

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The Chevalier d'Eon: Transgender Diplomat at the Court of George III, 1763-1777

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 00:09:00 GMT

In 1763 peace broke out between France and Britain, ending the Seven Years War. The defeated superpower France was left nursing its wounds, as well as thoughts of revenge. While King Louis XV's foreign minister sought to maintain the peace, the King's spy network, 'the King's Secret' (Secret du Roi) developed plans to invade England. These conflicting agendas were embodied in the Chevalier d'Eon, France's minister in London. A Georgian Edward Snowden. Shortly after his arrival the Chevalier began publishing confidential diplomatic despatches and blackmailing his King. The Chevalier escaped assassination and imprisonment by becoming a woman in 1777.

Dr Jonathan Conlin teaches modern British history at the University of Southampton. Currently he is researching a biography of the Anglo-Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian. His books include Tales of Two Cities: Paris, London and the Making of the Modern City.

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Putting it all together: using archives to discover your community's involvement in the First World War

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 00:09:00 GMT

The names of the First World War dead are there for all to see, on war memorials all over the country. Many individuals and groups are researching the stories behind the names, but what about delving even deeper? There is even more to be learned about the men and women who also served, and survived the War, as well as the families and communities left behind.

Drawing on a wide variety of documents, in record offices, libraries and online, Audrey Collins shows how you can discover how a whole community was affected by the First World War. She uses as a case study the market town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire, but the techniques used are equally applicable to any locality.

Audrey Collins is family history specialist at The National Archives and she is a regular speaker at genealogical events and conferences in the UK and worldwide.

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The civil service in the First World War

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 00:09:00 GMT

The First World War affected every sector of society, as the nation's resources were harnessed for the war effort. Like other employers, the civil service lost staff to the armed forces and had to replace them while they were away. It also had to deal with a greatly increased workload during wartime. Records in The National Archives describe how civil servants coped with these conditions: an eye-witness account of a Zeppelin raid, sugar ration coupons, and details of a scheme for gathering conkers are just some of the documents used to build a picture of the role of the civil service in wartime.

Audrey Collins is family history specialist at The National Archives and she has been researching the history and development of the General Register Office for several years, which led to an interest in the wider civil service during the First World War. She is a regular speaker at genealogical events and conferences in the UK and worldwide.

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Inventions that didn't change the world: a history of Victorian curiosities

Fri, 07 Nov 2014 00:09:00 GMT

In an era when Britain led the world in technological innovation, a host of lesser inventors were also hard at work. Registering designs for copyright was quicker and cheaper than the convoluted patenting process; anyone with what they thought was a good idea could register a design. All manner of bizarre curiosities and their careful drawings were lodged with the Designs Registry (now held by The National Archives). Julie Halls looks at the world of lesser-known Victorian inventions and the historical context which gave rise to them.

Julie Halls is The National Archives' specialist for registered designs and is the author of Inventions that didn't change the world (Thames & Hudson, 2014).

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1974: forty years on

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Mark Dunton looks back at UK National events in 1974 in this illustrated podcast. Drawing on the public records he highlights some unusual or little known aspects about the events of that year. 1974 was a difficult year in modern British history - the two general elections, the economic situation, the collapse of the Court Line air travel business for package holidays, the disaster at the Flixborough chemical plant, and IRA bombings - but some popular culture references remind us of lighter moments.

Mark Dunton specialises in researching the records of post-1945 Britain, including political, social and economic history and the policies of the Heath government in the early 1970s.

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Security Service file release October 2014

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Professor Christopher Andrew, formerly official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', introduces key files from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in October 2014.

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Writer of the month: Philippa Gregory

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Philippa Gregory in conversation with Caroline Kimbell, discussing how she uses original records and introducing her new novel, The King's Curse.

Philippa Gregory was already an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a TV drama, and a film. Six novels later, she looks at the family that preceded the Tudors: the Plantagenets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds. Find out more about Philippa Gregory's work.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. We apologise for any reduction in sound quality.

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Maps: their untold stories

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Drawn from seven centuries of maps of places around the globe held in The National Archives, Maps: their untold stories offers a fascinating and unusual journey through the world of maps.

Hear from the authors as they explain who made these maps, why they were made and what they tell us about the politics of the time. Mapmakers range from a native American and a Maori priest to Captain Cook and George Washington. Subject matter includes London before the Great Fire, a map of Czechoslovakia that Hitler gave to Neville Chamberlain, beautifully hand-drawn estate maps, battle plans from the First World War and earlier conflicts, and perhaps the earliest depiction of Santa Claus on a map. After the talk the authors will be signing copies of their book at our onsite bookshop.

Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes are specialist map archivists at The National Archives and have many years of experience in advising the public on maps and related records. They have written and spoken about a broad range of map-related topics based on the rich holdings at The National Archives, from the use of maps in sixteenth century law courts to the Second World bomb census survey.

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Big Ideas: Understanding patterns of behaviour for users of public records

Fri, 10 Oct 2014 00:12:00 GMT

When Google launched in 1998, a prime ingredient in their not-so-secret sauce was the question: if a user randomly clicked links where on the web might they end up?

They called the answer PageRank. This involved treating the web as a network rather than a bunch of isolated documents containing keywords. The outcome was a new verb and the near destruction of their competitors. Could repeating and refining 'the Google trick' help cultural bodies with research, collection care or digitisation?

One limitation to overcome is the assumption that all users behave in the same way. Users are individuals within fuzzy communities. So, can we personalise PageRank and treat people more like individuals than averages?

Matthew Pearce, from The National Archives, works on public sector information - in particular, its economics. His research is on the statistics and algorithms needed for personalised predictions.

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From British bobby to Hong Kong copper

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 00:12:00 GMT

This year marks the 170th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Police. This talk traces the history of the organisation through the stories of a few very ordinary British constables from the 1840s up to the First World War. Some sacrificed their careers by standing up for the rights of their colleagues, while others spent a lifetime fostering good relations with the local community. These were the men who helped mould the Force into the highly respected organisation which it became during the 20th century.

Christine Thomas has had a 40 year career with the police in Hong Kong and London, working in the fields of Research and Archival Records Management. She is a member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) and runs her own research service specialising in British expatriates who spent time in Hong Kong.

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The naval policy of the Free Church of Scotland

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

In 1843 the established Church of Scotland suffered a large secession of members who formed the Free Church of Scotland. In the early years of its existence the new church had to overcome a shortage of buildings and clergy, as well as the hostility of many landowners. Their response included the use of a floating church, a floating manse and the building of a yacht dedicated to the task of taking ministers to remote islands. The lecture looks at this curious episode in Scottish history and how and why the church evolved a 'naval policy'.

Alex Ritchie is the Business Archives Advice Manager at The National Archives. In this lecture he distils years of research into the shipbuilding industry, maritime history and Scottish church history. He also reveals a key fact discovered in The National Archives itself.

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'A World of Their Design': The men who shaped Tudor diplomacy

Mon, 15 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

In a time of shifting politics and world changing events, three men would emerge as masterful diplomats, ambassadors and advisors who possessed a shrewd political acumen. They each shared a complex and intriguing relationship with the other, while manipulating the powers around them in the game of diplomacy. Lauren Mackay explores the intersecting lives of Thomas Boleyn, Eustace Chapuys and Thomas Cromwell: the men behind the thrones.

Lauren Mackay is a historian whose research focuses on courtiers and diplomats of the 16th century. She completed her Master of History with University of New England, and is currently researching her PhD on Thomas and George Boleyn in the English Reformation, with the University of Newcastle in Australia.

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'Things as are all Forms, & Ceremonys': Ritual and authority in the reign of Queen Anne

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, impatient with courtly ritual, gave Queen Anne grudging praise for her knowledge of protocol: 'She has the greatest memory that ever was, especially for such things as are all forms, & ceremonys, giving people their due Ranks at Processions & their proper Places at Balls, & having the right order at Installments & funerals.'

The detailed records of court rituals held by The National Archives - including papers related to Anne's coronation, the state visit she hosted for 'Charles III' of Spain, the funeral of Prince George, and her own funeral - attest to her close attention to courtly propriety. This talk explains that her motives for insisting on proper rituals were not merely personal and nostalgic but shrewdly political and diplomatic.

James A Winn is William Fairfield Warren Professor of English at Boston University. His books include Unsuspected Eloquence (1981), a history of the relations between poetry and music; John Dryden and His World (1987), a prize-winning biography; and The Poetry of War (2008).

There is a small degree of interference in the audio quality of this live recording.

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Webinar: Why did people fear the Victorian workhouse?

Wed, 03 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

The workhouse was a major feature in the lives of the poor, whether or not they were ever inmates themselves. This webinar can help you to explore records in The National Archives, showing what life was like inside the workhouse, and how it was viewed by those outside.

Paul Carter is The National Archives' principal specialist in modern domestic records. He has a particular interest in poor law records.

A 'webinar' is an online seminar. This webinar took place on 11 June 2014.

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Webinar: Tracing British battalions or regiments during the First World War

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Unit war diaries, trench maps and photographs are just some of the sources held in The National Archives. This webinar looks at how to find these records and how to use them.

David Langrish graduated in War Studies from the University of Kent and is a member of the military records team.

A 'webinar' is an online seminar. This webinar took place on 11 June 2014.

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Webinar: An introduction to emigration sources for family historians

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:12:00 GMT

This webinar looks at passenger lists and other records for the popular destinations for migrants leaving the UK. Increasing numbers of these records have been digitised and are now available online.

Mark Pearsall is a Family History Records Specialist at The National Archives, and co-authored Family History On The Move.

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Webinar: An introduction to medieval and early modern sources for family historians

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Medieval and early modern records can be very informative, although they are often harder to locate than those for more recent periods. This webinar provides an overview of sources in The National Archives and elsewhere.

Nick Barratt is head of the Medieval and Early Modern team. He is also a writer and broadcaster on a range of historical subjects.

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Webinar: Army musters - more than just accounts

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

This webinar looks at how the army accounted for the money it spent on its personnel and what you can discover in the records in addition to financial costs.

William Spencer is The National Archives' Principal Records Specialist in military history, and the author of a number of books on military records.

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Did she kill him? Addiction, adultery and arsenic in Victorian Britain

Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Florence Chandler was in her early 20s when she married much older James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton broker, in 1881. Eight years later, tensions seethed. James was addicted to arsenic. Both were unfaithful. When James died suddenly, Florence was arrested for his murder. Was Florence victim or aggressor? Was she tried for her morality? Relying primarily on records from The National Archives, Kate Colquhoun re-examines the case dubbed by many as the greatest miscarriage of English justice and she asks what light it sheds on late Victorian society.

Kate Colquhoun has written a biography of Joseph Paxton and a history of Britain through its food. She also wrote the non-fiction bestseller Mr Briggs' Hat, about the first murder on a British train.

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War and Peace conference: Closing remarks: the First World War and intelligence

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 00:10:00 GMT

Closing remarks by Gill Bennett, former Chief Historian, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1995-2005.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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Big Ideas: Big Data for Law

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 00:09:00 GMT

Big data is big news. Did you know an estimated 90 per cent of the world's data was created in the last two years (see Insights gleaned from large datasets are increasingly driving business innovation and economic growth. Underpinning this 'big data revolution' is a powerful combination of low cost cloud computing, open source analytics software and new research methodologies. These are enabling us to move from simply storing large sets of data to extracting real value from them. Big data analysis can now tell us everything from the most borrowed library books in 2013 to the most overweight areas in England.

John Sheridan, Head of Legislation Services, introduces the Big Data for Law project. Why does data matter in law? What are we doing to transform the legal research? Can you imagine what an annual 'census' of the statute book might look like and what it could be used for? If you care about law, how it works and how we can make legislation clearer and more accessible, this talk is unmissable.

This event took place as part of Big Ideas, a series of monthly talks on big ideas coming out of The National Archives' research programme.

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Writer of the month: A very British murder

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 00:09:00 GMT

A Very British Murder is Lucy Worsley's account of a national obsession - a tale of dark deeds and guilty pleasures

Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity which opens up The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace to more than three million visitors a year. Before that, she worked for English Heritage and Glasgow Museums. As well as writing books about history, she presents history television programmes for the BBC.

This talk was part of Writer of the Month - a series of talks, in which each month a high profile author shared their experiences of using original records in their writing.

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Lines in the sand

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Juliette Desplat, of The National Archives, gives an overview of the consequences of the First World War for the Middle East.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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Peacetime diplomacy and the New European Order

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Professor Alan Sharp, of the University of Ulster, examines diplomacy after the Paris Peace Conference.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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Wartime diplomacy: The role of the Empire

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Bryan Glass, of Texas State University, examines the role of the Empire during the First World War.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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The road to war: At home and abroad: propaganda and intelligence

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Martin Farr, of Newcastle University, discusses propaganda and intelligence in the lead up to the First World War.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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Wartime diplomacy: Getting global: American involvement

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Richard Dunley, of The National Archives, discusses American involvement in the First World War, particularly the three-way dynamic of British-American-German relationships.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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The road to war: The prelude to war

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Stephen Twigge, of The National Archives, outlines the political landscape preceding the First World War - the July Crisis.

This talk was recorded live at the one-day conference, War and peace - diplomacy, espionage and the First World War, held on 28 June 2014 at The National Archives, Kew.

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Annual lecture of the Pipe Roll Society (2014): Formal record and courtroom reality in 13th and 14th century England

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Please note: Professor Brand quotes direct dialogue from original plea rolls and some listeners might find the language offensive.

The Annual Lecture of the Pipe Roll Society 2014 was given by Professor Paul Brand, All Souls College Oxford. Professor Brand is one of the world's leading experts on medieval law in England and Ireland and has published extensively on the subject.

The Pipe Roll Society is an academic society dedicated to publishing editions of the pipe rolls of the Exchequer and other medieval documents.

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Keeping it in the family

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 00:12:00 GMT

In a period where politics could not be separated from dynasty and the personal relationships between individuals were crucial to government, women often played a key role in diplomacy. This was certainly the case in relations between England and Scotland in the medieval period, with sisters, daughters and cousins of English kings regularly being dispatched north of the border to forge links through marriage with the Scottish kings. This talk draws on records at The National Archives and elsewhere to illuminate the roles that these women played and discuss what light they can shed on Anglo-Scottish relations.

Dr Jessica Nelson works at The National Archives specialising in the high medieval period and her research interests include royal women and queenship.

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Big Ideas: Sharing knowledge and expertise with business

Fri, 11 Jul 2014 00:12:00 GMT

The National Archives is engaged in its first Knowledge Transfer Partnership. The scheme aims to support UK businesses to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance by accessing knowledge and expertise in UK academic institutions. The scheme partners companies with academic institutions in order to develop knowledge, technology or skills they currently lack.

In this talk Kostas Ntanos, Head of Conservation Research and Development at The National Archives, will discuss the archives' partnership with the IMC Group and how together they are developing a tool to assess environmental conditions with the aim of improving the preservation of records, reducing energy usage, and developing a performance benchmark.

Kostas Ntanos joined The National Archives in 2005 and has been Head of Conservation Research and Development since 2009. He has a keen interest in developing environmental management tools for users across the archival sector.

This event took place as part of Big Ideas, a series of monthly talks on big ideas coming out of The National Archives' research programme.

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Special Operations Executive (SOE) service - some alternative sources

Fri, 04 Jul 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Have you been unsuccessful in searching for a personal file for someone in SOE or perhaps you found a file containing little detail? There may be alternative or supplementary sources. This talk suggests ways to identify these sources and find further information about SOE service in records held at The National Archives.

Neil Cobbett has worked at The National Archives for 19 years, specialising in Special Operations Executive and modern (post-1688) Irish records.

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Inconvenient people and how to find them: Tales from the Victorian lunacy panics

Fri, 27 Jun 2014 00:12:00 GMT

The 19th century saw a series of scandals concerning sane individuals being locked away in lunatic asylums, who were the victims of unscrupulous persons who wanted to be rid of a 'difficult' family member, spouse or friend. But who were the victims of this trade? How much can you find about contested cases, private asylums and dishonest doctors in the surviving records? Sarah Wise explains what she learned during research for her latest book, which made use of The National Archives' holdings as well as a number of other less well known sources of data.

Sarah Wise's debut, The Italian boy: Murder and grave robbery in 1830s London, was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction and won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for non-fiction. Inconvenient people: Lunacy, liberty and the mad doctors (Vintage) has recently been published in paperback. Find out more at

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Finding my father in Mesopotamia

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Jenny Lewis's father fought as a young man in the First World War campaign in Mesopotamia - modern day Iraq, Iran and Syria. He joined the South Wales Borderers in 1915 and served in Mesopotamia until 1917 when he was wounded at Kut al Amara. He died in 1944 when Jenny was a baby. Through a presentation of original photographs, poetry and witness statements from her latest collection, Taking Mesopotamia (which was heavily based on research at The National Archives) Jenny links the 2003-2011 Iraq war to its roots in the First World War campaign, traces her own roots to the father she never knew and shows how to turn historical and family research into poetry.

Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright and children's author. She has published three collections of poetry and two pamphlets in English and Arabic with the Iraqi poet, Adnan al Sayegh. Her plays and poetry cycles have been performed at theatres across the UK. She teaches poetry at Oxford University. Find out more at

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The untold story of the RAF's black Second World War fliers over Europe

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 00:12:00 GMT

While the United States could boast the black fliers of Tuskegee, few people are aware of the important contribution made by 500 RAF aircrew recruited from the Caribbean and West Africa. Overcoming the legacy of the official British Colour Bar to serve over Europe as pilots, navigators, flight engineers and air gunners, these men were pioneers in the truest sense. After suffering a loss rate of more than 30% and, in some cases, incarceration as black PoWs in Nazi Germany, the men returned to their countries of origin and were lost from the historical record. Mark Johnson has spent 17 years researching this tale, based on personal interviews with survivors, one of whom was his Jamaican great-uncle, a former navigator with Bomber Command's No 102 (Ceylon) Squadron and a holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross. He outlines their backgrounds and motives for joining up and also describes their combat experiences and explores the possible significance of their legacy for integration and race relations.

Mark Johnson is a former soldier, a cyber-security writer and historian. His first history title, which tells the largely unknown story of the black RAF aircrew volunteers, is Caribbean volunteers at war (Pen & Sword). The author posts regular updates on his website at

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Big Idea: A competition to encourage videogame design students to go 'Off the Map'

Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Stella Wisdom discusses the 'Off the Map' competition: a unique collaboration the British Library has with videogame company Crytek and GameCity festival based in Nottingham. Off the Map challenges students in higher education to build exciting, explorable, virtual environments using assets chosen by curators at the British Library and the power of Crytek's CRYENGINE software. The 2013 competition winners were De Montfort University's Pudding Lane Productions team with their stunning realisation of 17th century London.

Stella Wisdom is a curator in the Digital Research team at the British Library, exploring and promoting new methods of digital scholarship using both born digital content and digitised collections.

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Reluctant regicides? The trial of Charles I revisited

Fri, 30 May 2014 00:12:00 GMT

Dr Andrew Hopper investigates the recent controversy among historians about the nature of the trial of King Charles I. Which individuals drove the king's trial and what were their aims and goals? Did the king know he was doomed from the outset or did doubts remain over the trial's outcome? How committed were the trial commissioners to a capital sentence and what pressures constrained their freedom of action?

The trial papers of Charles I are on view in The Keeper's Gallery.

Dr Andrew Hopper is senior lecturer in the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester. He is a historian of the British Civil Wars, and best known for his two monographs Black Tom: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (Manchester University Press, 2007) and Turncoats and renegadoes: Changing sides in the English Civil Wars (Oxford University Press, 2012).

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Webinar: Cloud storage and digital preservation

Tue, 27 May 2014 00:12:00 GMT

How can cloud storage help address growing digital preservation challenges? A webinar took place on 13 May 2014 to introduce The National Archives' new cloud storage and digital preservation guidance. The webinar was an opportunity to learn more about this guidance, and to put questions to the authors: Neil Beagrie, Andrew Charlesworth and Paul Miller.

If you have any queries about the presentation please contact Charles Beagrie Ltd.

Please note that this is a recording of a webinar and you might notice reduced sound quality.

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