🎧 Lenin’s Train

Audio recorded at Chalke Valley History Festival 2017.
Pushkin Prize-winning author, and eminent historian of Russia, Professor Catherine Merridale takes us on Lenin’s fateful train journey from exile in Zurich to his eventual ecstatic reception by the revolutionary crowds in Petrograd. During the course of a train ride, she gives a gripping account of how Lenin hijacked the liberal Russian revolution and changed the history of the world.

🎧 Young Churchill

Recording from Chalke Valley History Festival 2019.

When we think of Winston Churchill we think of the gruff wartime leader with the bulldog features, cigar and hat. It’s hard to imagine he was ever young. But in this talk for all ages, best-selling author and comedian, Charlie Higson will vividly bring the young Winston to life, from when he joined the army aged 20 until he first entered parliament five years later, having fought on three continents and begun his writing career as a war correspondent.


Audio from Chalke Valley History Festival 2018.
The voyage of the Mayflower leading to the founding of Plymouth Colony is one of the seminal events in world history. The group of English Puritans who ventured across the Atlantic in 1620 were ill prepared for the brutal journey and life in a new land. Writer and broadcaster Rebecca Fraser traces two generations of one family and their extraordinary response to the challenges of life in America.


Audio from Chalke Valley History Festival 2019.

Journey back to the Moon landings 50 years ago with Stephen Wisdom as he relates 11 little-known details about the journey of Apollo 11. Fun and accessible, the talk is packed with stories of the characters that defined those momentous times.

🎬 5 Minutes With… Charles Spencer

🎬 5 Minutes With… Anita Anand

🎬 Five Minutes With… Tim Bouverie

My First Visit To Chalke Valley History Festival For Schools

Georgina Hawkins, Aged 12, Millfield Prep School, Year 7

Day One

Lice. A LOT of lice. I hadn’t expected the CVHF to kick off with a talk from Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Browne that enlightened us on just how bad the wee beasties could get. If you’re at all squeamish, look away but the record number of 10,428 on a British Tommy in WW1 was incredible. Plus that was just the count from his shirt! Martin went on to emphasise that realism in art isn’t the only ‘right’ way to go, in fact choosing to draw in a stylistic way is thousands of years old and often more clearly gets across the desired message.

Out in the Living Histories exhibitions we learned about the harsh reality of warfare and the escallating cat-and-mouse chase between developing armour and the finding the means to break through it and inflict maximum damage. Equally interesting was the history behind some of our everyday food items, and especially the risks taken to obtain spices such as pepper and nutmeg in Tudor times. When things went wrong, they went terribly wrong, including falling into the hands of Vlad the Impailer or being marooned in the Arctic over winter. Which would you have chosen?

Moving on, I discovered that The Black Prince really knew how to be a prince, living a life of luxury whist fighting at the front for England. Not quite so comfortable were the Numidian Cavalry who were part of the Roman Army and rode naked without saddle, reigns or clothing into battle.

The WW2 Trench Experience relives the Allies fight to push inland following d-day. Interestingly the Allies had penicillin by this time but the Axis forces did not. Equally, soldiers given morphine had an M marked on their forehead, since an overdose would stop the heart.

There is so much diverse aspects of history at the festival and so many knowledgeable people, and it’s fantastic to uncover that what we think of as history may not be the reality at all.

Day Two

My second day at the festival saw less action than yesterday but more in-depth talks on a range of subjects. Out of an enticing choice of twelve topics I chose Appeasing Hitler, The Russian Revolution, Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scots. All were interesting for very different reasons – Chamberlain’s desperate optimism that war with Hitler and the associated loss of life could be avoided, a taste of a lecture format, the manipulations of the men at Henry VIII’s side and being a Scot, my personal favourite, the doomed story of Mary Queen of Scots.

I also had a first-rate lesson in historical navigation with all manner of wonderful tools, including the revelation that I walk across the festival field at 1.5 knots. I’ll have to come back next year to work out how fast I can run.

🎬 5 Minutes with… Ali Ansari

Ali Ansari is a Professor in the School of History and the Director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St Andrews. Here he is talking to CVHF Volunteer and history student, Ellie Watson about our longterm projects, The Thread of History.

🎧 William Golding

Recording from Chalke Valley History Festival 2018.
Writer and critic, Rick Gekoski takes a look at Sir William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies and other classics, as well as winner of both the Booker and the Nobel Prize for Literature. A former resident of Bowerchalke, he also taught at Bishop Wordsworth’s School and is rightly feted as one of our greatest novelists.