The National Archives Podcast Series

The National Archives Podcast Series

United Kingdom

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


Blindness in Victorian Britain  

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.

A tourist's guide to Shakespeare's London  

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.

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy  

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.

Prisoners of war in the Far East  

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.

England's Immigrants between 1330 and 1550  

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.

Simply a Jacobite woman? The life experience of Lady Nairne  

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.

Worn out by war: Disabled soldiers and their pensions  

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.

First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill  

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.

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

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.

Big Data and the gendering of Parliamentary language  

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.

England '66: The best of times?  

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.

100 years of the WI: The acceptable face of feminism  

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.

Writer of the Month: Richard Barnett on Crucial Interventions  

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.

Amiable Warriors: A History of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality  

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

Big Ideas: The Future of the Past  

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.

Stalin's Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess  

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.

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

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.

Heidi Thomas: Researching Call the Midwife  

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

Materiality matters: new approaches to medieval wax seal studies  

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.

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

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).

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