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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

Unfolding the court case that banned a 1920s lesbian novel

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 09:30:00 GMT

In 1928 Radclyffe Hall wrote 'The Well of Loneliness', a novel that featured female characters in same-sex relationships. Shortly after it was published, the Sunday Express called for the book to be suppressed and urged the Home Office to censor it. Despite attempts by writers including Vera Brittain, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf to defend the novel as a book of literary, sociological and psychological significance, it was banned later that year.

In this podcast, we look at files from the obscenity trial to find out why a lesbian novel that lacked any lewd imagery or language was classed as obscene. Hear what the novel meant to sexologists such as Henry Havelock Ellis; which side of the trial Rudyard Kipling offered to stand on; and the alternate plot lines that the magistrate believed would spare a novel with gay characters from censorship.

Media Files:

The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 2: Wolfenden's silent women

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 09:30:00 GMT

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Caroline Derry looks at how the Wolfenden committee (whose 1957 report laid the ground work for the passing of the Sexual Offences Act) barely mentioned women and instead focussed almost exclusively on homosexual men.

Media Files:

The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 1: The lives of men from 1953 to the 1967 Act

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 09:00:00 GMT

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Sammy Sturgess discusses the lives of gay men in London in the lead up to the 1967 Act: from legal rights and social spaces, to employment and living arrangements.

Media Files:

Tudor trials: Confessions from the Star Chamber

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Medieval records specialist Euan Roger gives us a taste of the kinds of disputes dealt with by the Star Chamber, one of the highest Tudor courts.

The tens of thousands of Star Chamber records kept at The National Archives reveal a wealth of information about Tudor life. In this podcast, we uncover a few of the more unusual cases put before the King's council, including a murder cover-up, a child maintenance complaint, and a marital dispute.

Credits: this podcast uses an excerpt from 'Stabat Mater', performed by the Tudor Consort.

Media Files:

Jane Austen: from beginning to end

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 09:00:00 GMT

To commemorate the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death in 1817, Professor Fiona Stafford delivered a talk on Austen's life and work at the The National Archives, where Austen's original will is held.

Fiona Stafford is a professor of English Language and Literature at Somerville College, Oxford, specialising in Romantic literature from Keats and Wordsworth to Austen. She is editor of 'Emma' for Penguin and 'Pride and Prejudice' for Oxford World's Classics, and has written on many aspects of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature, including 'Brief Lives: Jane Austen'.

Media Files:

A tormented Tudor queen's treasonous 'love letter'

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 09:00:00 GMT

In this episode, Neil Johnston and Christopher Day discuss a letter written by Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, to Thomas Culpeper, a groom of the King's Privy chamber. The document was part of a body of evidence collected against Catherine and Culpeper that ultimately led to their execution. It is now preserved at The National Archives.

Here Neil Johnston explains how it is crucial to examine this letter in the context of Catherine's sexual past in order to understand how the queen accused of living "an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous, vicious life" was effectively blackmailed into a path of action that led to her untimely death.

Media Files:

Sexuality under scrutiny in 1930s Soho

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 09:00:00 GMT

In 1934, homosexual acts between men - in public and in private - were illegal in the UK. Police surveilled a number of social spaces across London suspected of permitting what the state then considered to be 'immoral activity' and in August conducted a raid on a venue in Soho called the Caravan Club. Possessions such as cosmetics and personal correspondence were confiscated from attendees and later offered as evidence in court.

Vicky Iglikowski, The National Archives' Diverse History Records Specialist, discusses the content and context of a love letter found in the Caravan on that evening, and considers the difficult position it occupies now as both an important piece of LGBT history and a document that wasn't intended for publication.

This podcast was produced as part of a series where archivists talk about the documents they think you should know about. You can view the rest of the series here.


'Sam, the Old Accordian Man' by the Williams Sisters

'Night Latch Key Blues' by Virginia Liston

Media Files:

Oscar Wilde's trial and imprisonment - a short play

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 09:00:00 GMT

This short play explores the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. In 1895 the celebrated author and playwright was found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to two years imprisonment, with hard labour. The words are taken directly from records held by The National Archives, particularly the petition that Wilde made to the Home Secretary seeking early release, and letters written about him to the governor of Reading Gaol.

This play was first performed as part of The National Archives;' Victorian Crime night in October 2016 and was subsequently performed as part of 'Museums Showoff', 'OUTing the Past Festival' and a 'Queer and the State' event. Find out here how we brought Oscar Wilde's words to life.

By Caroline Osborne-James

Cast (in order of appearance):

Bombs, bulls and civilian bravery

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 09:00:00 GMT

In this podcast The National Archives' Principal Military Specialist reveals some of his favourite stories about civilian gallantry from the First and Second World Wars, from the bravery of the youngest recipient of the George medal to a bizarre tale involving a bomb and some table tennis bats.

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'A Bit of a Scratch', a radio drama about the battle against Venereal Disease during the First World War

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 09:00:00 GMT

'A Bit of a Scratch' explores the first recorded prosecution under the Venereal Diseases Act 1917. The legislation was introduced due to the large numbers, roughly 5%, of UK troops returning from the First World War with venereal diseases and to ensure that treatment was undertaken by qualified medical professionals. The last century has seen remarkable developments in sexual health, however with rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections and the emergence of antimicrobial resistant disease, the provision of high quality sexual health services are more important than ever.

This podcast was produced jointly with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). More information on the issues contained within this podcast can be found on the BASHH website and @BASHH_UK.

By: Debbie Manship

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Stephen McGann
  • Billy: Louis Cardona
  • Edie: Lowri Amies
  • Chemist: David Jarvis
  • Doctor: Peter Wickham
  • All other parts were played by members of the cast.
  • Composer: Chris Madin
  • Studio Engineer: Holly Parris
  • Director: Paul Dawson

Produced by Role Call and iD Audio in association with M & F Health Communications"The British Army's fight against Venereal Disease in the 'Heroic Age of Prostitution'" by Richard Marshall is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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Medieval treason and magic

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 09:00:00 GMT

In this podcast, two of our records specialists tell us about treason and necromancy in The National Archives' medieval records.

The first part, narrated by Paul Dryburgh, tells the story of a band of men from Coventry who planned to kill King Edward II and his supporters, the Despencers, with a plot that involved wax effigies and pins. In the second part, Sean Cunningham discusses one of the earliest English language statements in legal history; a tale involving a mole catcher and a magical dismembered hand.

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'Dadland': the father who was also an undercover guerrilla agent

Thu, 18 May 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Keggie Carew discusses her book 'Dadland', a story about a madcap English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, and dementia. The novel centres upon her father Tom Carew, an enigmatic, unorthodox character, who was an undercover guerrilla agent during the Second World War.

'Dadland' is the winner of the Costa Biography Award 2016 and a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

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Black British politics and the anti-apartheid struggle

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

In 1948, from the introduction of apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination galvanized the international community into protest. British people and black communities in particular attempted to lead the global opposition against apartheid.

Historian Dr Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London) will discuss aspects of the documents she looked at while writing her book 'The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Apartheid Struggle' (2015).

Please note, due to a technical error this recording ended a few minutes prior to the end of the talk.

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From the Somme to Arras

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Andrew Lock discusses the progress made by the British Expeditionary Forces between the battles of the Somme (1916) and Arras (1917). Although lessons were learned during the Somme campaign, Arras clearly exposed command and preparation deficiencies, leading to setbacks and the highest casualty rate of any British offensive in the war.

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Bureau-cats: A short history of Whitehall's official felines

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Public interest in the cats of Whitehall began long before Larry, Palmerston and Gladstone graced our front pages and Twitter feeds.

In this podcast, records specialist Christopher Day reveals his favourite anecdotes from the 'Home Office Cat' files, including the story behind the naming of Nelson, Winston Churchill's favourite cat; the controversy surrounding the behaviour of Peta, the first 'Chief Mouser' gifted to the UK government; and the verses exchanged between staff regarding the cats' upkeep.

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Tracy Borman on 'The Private Lives of the Tudors'

Mon, 06 Mar 2017 09:00:00 GMT

Tracy Borman reveals how the Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers, even in their most private moments. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed.

Dr Tracy Borman is a historian, author and joint Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces. Her 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'. Her latest book is 'The Private Lives of the Tudors', published by Hodder & Stoughton.

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Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: E-J Scott on collecting for the Museum of Transology

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:00:00 GMT

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, curator E-J Scott discusses the process of collecting trans artefacts for the Museum of Transology. The exhibition is on display at Fashion Space Gallery in London until 22 April 2017.

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Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: Emma Vickers on trans veterans of the British Armed Forces

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:00:00 GMT

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, Emma Vickers discusses the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces.

Media Files:

Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: Hilary McCollum on 'Sapphic Suffragettes'

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:00:00 GMT

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, Hilary McCollum discusses her research into the roles lesbian women played in the suffragette movement.

Media Files:

Archive Notes: Prosthetics and the First World War

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:00:00 GMT

The first episode of a Q&A series in which we talk to researchers about the records and stories they've uncovered at The National Archives.

In 'Prosthetics and the First World War', our First World War diverse histories researcher Louise Bell discusses the impact of the war on disability history through our records: from designs for lighter, more flexible prosthetics to new rehabilitation methods trialled by specialist hospitals.

Media Files:

The life and death of King John

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:00:00 GMT

King John's acts of misgovernment prompted his barons to demand reform, setting the kingdom on the road to civil war and leading to John's grant of Magna Carta. Why was he seen as such a terrible king and how did Magna Carta come about?

Professor David Carpenter, Professor Stephen Church and Dr Marc Morris discuss the life and reign of King John, 800 years after his death in October 1216.

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Defeating the Zeppelins

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 15:00:00 GMT

For almost two years during the First World War, German airships roamed over the British countryside, bombing towns and villages without fear of a significant response from the aircraft assigned to defend the country. But all that changed in the late summer of 1916 when a new weapon was introduced, one that spelt the end of the Zeppelin menace.

Ian Castle is the author of two books and a website detailing Germany's air campaign against Britain during the First World War (

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The Battle of Agincourt

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:00:00 GMT

In 1415, King Henry V led an army to victory on the field of Agincourt. In this talk, which commemorated the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Professor Anne Curry discusses the events leading up to the conquest, and the myths surrounding it that have developed over the centuries.

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Jonathan Dimbleby on 'The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War'

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 15:00:00 GMT

In this talk, broadcaster and acclaimed author Jonathan Dimbleby shows how Britain's success in the Battle of the Atlantic led to the allied victory in 1945. Through extraordinary personal diaries and letters written by both sailors and politicians, he will tell the epic story of how the allies won the war.

Jonathan Dimbleby's illustrious career in broadcasting has spanned nearly five decades. He has presented television programmes on both the BBC and ITV, and has written numerous critically-acclaimed non-fiction history books.

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Traces through Time: a new tool for finding linked records across our collections

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 15:00:00 GMT

This talk introduces 'Traces through Time', a project by The National Archives which combines historical data sets and the latest technology to help researchers find linked records across our collections. Starting with service records from the First World War, the project has so far identified and published over half a million links. This work enables new insights from archival records and allows people's stories to emerge from the data.

Dr Sonia Ranade is the Principal Investigator on the 'Traces through Time' project. She has a background in Information Science and, since joining The National Archives in 1998, has worked to improve access to our unique collections.

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Never Forget: The Holocaust and Nazi Persecution

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 15:00:00 GMT

In this talk - held as part of Holocaust Memorial Day - record specialists Ela Kaczmarska and Lauren Willmott shed light on the atrocities committed during this dark period of history and the millions of victims who were persecuted by the Nazis' fascist ideology.

Media Files:

Security Service file release September 2016

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:00:00 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 September 2016.

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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.

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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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

Media Files:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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