Chalke Talk

The podcast from the Chalke Valley History Festival
Released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings


Latest releases

  • 80. THE LAST CAVALIER: PRINCE RUPERT OF THE RHINE
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    Described as ‘half man, half devil’ by the Parliamentarians, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles I’s nephew and commander of the Royalist forces in exile, was truly a man of two halves. Although nicknamed Prince Robber and renowned as a brutal general, dashing cavalier and Royalist pirate, Charles Spencer reveals the hidden side of Prince […]

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  • 79. RICHARD III: BROTHER, PROTECTOR, KING
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    Richard III remains one of England’s most controversial monarchs. There are few parallels in English history that can match the drama of his reign, witnessed here in its full bloody intensity. Chris Skidmore strips back the legends that surround Richard’s life, showing the man as his contemporaries saw him, and presenting him as one of […]

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  • 78. THE HEIRS OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD: THE ORIGINS OF THE SHIA-SUNNI SCHISM
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    Within a generation of the Prophet Muhammed’s death, his followers had established Islam and a new civilisation. However, as acclaimed author Barnaby Rogerson explains, the seeds of discord that destroyed its unity and the roots of the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims were already present. This fascinating talk allows us to understand some of […]

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  • 77. WEIMAR AND NAZI GERMANY
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    In this excellent talk for secondary schools, Professor Alexandra Richie, concentrating largely on Berlin, and the life and career of Adolf Hitler, shows how Weimar was a result of the First World War, and that, despite the image we have of Weimar, there were a great many continuities from Weimar Germany into Nazi Germany.

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  • 76. THE LONG SHADOW: THE GREAT WAR AND THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
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    Has history distilled the 1914-18 Great War to a national myth of personal tragedies? Critically acclaimed historian and broadcaster Professor David Reynolds seeks to redress the balance by exploring the true impact of that war on the twentieth century. He shows how subsequent world-wide events shape and reshape our attitudes to a conflict Britain is […]

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  • 75. THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY
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    In this talk for secondary schools, Professor Olivette Otele begins with her own trajectory which has led to her becoming Britain’s first female black professor of history. She examines three questions: What is history? Why do we learn history? and How do we enquire into the past?

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  • 74. TO HELL AND BACK: EUROPE 1914-1949
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    One of our most eminent historians Professor Sir Ian Kershaw examines the effect two vast and catastrophic conflicts had on the lives of millions of Europeans. He wrestles with the most difficult issues that these events raise – what it meant for the Europeans who initiated and lived through such fearful times – and what […]

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  • 73. THE LIFE OF A ROMAN LEGIONARY
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    Ben Kane is a best-selling author of historical fiction who has immersed himself in Roman history. After all, he has not only walked Hadrian’s Wall in full Roman legionary kit, but has also recreated Hannibal’s route through the Alps. In this exciting and interactive event, Ben explains what it was like to live and fight […]

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  • 72. THE GREAT EXPLORERS
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    What inspires explorers to push back the boundaries of the world? Why do they risk their lives in unforgiving conditions far from home? How do they survive at the limits of human endurance? Who are the great pioneers of land, sea and space? Robin Hanbury-Tenison charts the great expeditions of the most outstanding men and […]

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  • 71. THE 1917 RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
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    In this lecture to senior school pupils, Dr George Gilbert talks about the Russian Revolution of 1917 and puts this in context by what came before and what happened after into the civil-war era of the 1920s. He covers war, revolution, civil war as well as the different interpretations of these events today.

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  • 70. CAPITALISM IN AMERICA: A HISTORY
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    Adrian Wooldridge, otherwise known as Bagehot from the Economist, describes America’s evolution from a small patchwork of colonies to an unsurpassed engine of wealth and innovation. He addresses the crucial debates, from the role of slavery in the antebellum Southern economy to the real impact of Roosevelt’s New Deal and America’s violent mood swings in […]

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  • 69. OUR UNINVITED GUESTS: THE SECRET LIVES OF BRITAIN’S COUNTRY HOUSES 1939-1945
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    At the beginning of the Second World War the government requisitioned thousands of houses to provide accommodation for the armed forces, secret services and government offices as well as vulnerable children, the sick and the elderly. Julie Summers gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in some of Britain’s greatest country houses that were occupied by […]

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  • 68. AUNTIE’S WAR: THE BBC DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR
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    As an essential propaganda tool and the voice that relayed news of all the key moments of World War II to every household, Auntie – the BBC’s enduring nickname – played a crucial role during World War II. Veteran BBC Radio presenter and journalist Edward Stourton provides a remarkable portrait of a unique institution and […]

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  • 67. CHURCHILL: WALKING WITH DESTINY
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    When we seek an example of a great leader with unalloyed courage, the person who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the iconic, visionary war leader, who stood firmly for his beliefs when everyone doubted him. But how did young Winston become Churchill? What gave him the strength to take on the superior force of […]

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  • 66. FOOD AND COOKERY IN IRON AGE BRITAIN: FROM THE DIG TO THE PLATE
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    Caroline Nicolay, an experimental archaeologist specialising in Iron Age Britain, discusses just what it was that Iron Age men and women ate and what evidence they left behind, explaining much about our Celtic past.   

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  • 65. THE PLANTAGENETS: BRITAIN’S BLOODIEST DYNASTY
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    The fifteenth century saw the crown change hands seven times as the great Plantagenet families fought to the death for power, majesty and the right to rule. Fresh from his brilliant TV series, Dan Jones breathes life into some of the greatest heroes and villains in English history, who tore themselves apart and enabled the […]

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  • 64. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
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    In the great tradition of story-telling, Tom Holland turns to the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, an epic story of honour, adventure, dangerous women and a golden fleece. Told with wit, verve and passion, this magical tale of the first group of super-heroes is a treat for all, whether young or old. 

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  • 63. M: MAXWELL KNIGHT, BRITAIN’S GREATEST SPYMASTER
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    Maxwell Knight was a paradox. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast, he is seen today as one of MI5’s greatest spymasters, a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism. Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews, Henry Hemming reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but also […]

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  • 62. CHATSWORTH
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    Chatsworth has one of Europe’s most significant and diverse art collections which has grown with each generation, encompassing Old Masters, antiquities, contemporary ceramics, modern sculpture and computer portraits to name but a few. The 12th Duke of Devonshire talks through his predecessors’ contributions to the collection, the house and the surrounding landscape and touches upon […]

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  • 61. THESE ISLANDS: A LETTER TO BRITAIN
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    In the first ever CVHF Directors’ Lecture, Professor Ali Ansari reveals, in a passionately eloquent plea, why Britain should re-examine some of its historical myths, and why misrepresentations of the past are harming the unity that is the bedrock of our United Kingdom.

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  • 60. ELIZABETH I AND HER WORLD
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    In this talk for secondary schools, historian and author of important textbooks Ben Walsh covers the background to Elizabeth I’s reign. He explains the lives of ordinary people in England at that time giving context to the events of the period. He also shows how historians investigate their subjects.

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  • 59. A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN SPY WHO HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II
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    In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allies spies. We must find and destroy her.” The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organisation dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” Sonia Purnell […]

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  • 58. WAR AND GOLD: A FIVE HUNDRED YEAR HISTORY OF EMPIRE, ADVENTURES AND DEBT
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    In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors discovered the New World. The vast quantities of gold and silver would make their country rich, yet the new wealth supported multiple wars, ultimately leading to the economic ruin of their empire. Kwasi Kwarteng examines the role that money has played in the destabilisation of societies and places the […]

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  • 57. A DISGUSTING LOOK AT HISTORY: FROM THE BLACK DEATH TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
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    Comedian, author and lover of quirky history, Charlie Higson takes us on a journey through some of the more disgusting and revolting parts of history, from the bubonic plague and other horrible diseases and hideous agues to the myths of the zombie apocalypse. Despite the grotesque subject matter, this is suitable for all ages.

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  • 56. 1821: THE GREEK WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
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    It began as a spark in the Peloponnese and grew to suck in the Great Powers. James Heneage describes an eleven-year adventure full of heroism and unspeakable savagery with a glittering, international cast that included Byron, Delacroix and hundreds of young philhellenes who went out to fight and die. It ended with the last naval […]

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  • 55. DEUTSCHES AFRIKASCORPS KNIGHTS CROSS WINNER
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    Günter Halm (1922-2017) discusses with James Holland and Rob Schäfer his fascinating wartime memories. He was a veteran of the Second World War who fought under Rommel in the Deutsches Afrikakorps, and who won the Knight’s Cross for his part in the First Battle of Alamein in July 1942, and later served in Normandy.  

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  • 54. US FOREIGN POLICY SINCE THE COLD WAR
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    In this lecture to senior school pupils, Dr Christopher Fuller starts with an overview of a 100 years of history in a few minutes in order to understand the decisions made by policy-makers at the end of the Cold War. He covers the emergence of a unipolar age; the ‘end of history’ interpretation; how globalisation […]

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  • 53. START AGAIN: HOW WE CAN FIX OUR BROKEN POLITICS
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    Britain today is divided by generation, education, place and attitude. In this time of tumult, when Britain is wrestling with the question of what sort of nation it wishes to be, its politics is stuck. Drawing on lessons from history, Philip Collins proposes new answers to today’s most urgent questions: questions of education, work, health, […]

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  • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN THE VICTORIAN COUNTRYSIDE
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    In this talk for junior pupils at the Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools, Jamie Byrom tells of ‘Sarah’s Sad Story’. Using the local records in Devon from the Victorian era, he follows her from early childhood to her first job as a servant aged ten (although claiming to be thirteen) to her incarceration in […]

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  • ARNHEM: THE BATTLE FOR THE BRIDGES, 1944
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    The battle of Arnhem, the great airborne fight for the bridges in 1944, was a courageous strategic gamble that failed. Britain’s best- selling historian Antony Beevor, using often overlooked sources from Allied and German archives, reconstructs the terrible reality of the fighting and questions whether this plan to end the war could ever have worked, […]

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  • THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE CHILDREN: EGLANTYNE JEBB
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    Eglantyne Jebb not only helped save millions of lives, she also permanently changed the way the world treats children through the foundation of Save the Children. Clare Mulley brings to life this brilliant, charismatic, and passionate woman, whose work took her between drawing rooms and war zones, defying convention and breaking the law, until she […]

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  • CHINA’S WAR WITH JAPAN 1937-45: A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL
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    In 1937 the ‘Marco Polo Bridge Incident’ plunged China and Japan into a conflict of extraordinary duration and ferocity – a war that would result in many millions of deaths and completely reshape East Asia in ways that we continue to confront today. Professor Rana Mitter explains how Japan’s failure to defeat China was the […]

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  • HISTORY’S PEOPLE: PERSONALITIES AND THE PAST
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    What difference do individuals make to history? Scrutinising the lives and behaviour of great and lesser-known figures of the past, internationally-acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan investigates the decisions they made that changed our lives irrevocably. What is the concept of leadership? And how, for better or worse, have personalities influenced the way we see our past […]

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  • SAS: ROGUE HEROES
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    The history of the SAS is an exhilarating tale of fearlessness and heroism, recklessness and tragedy. Ben Macintyre, best-selling author of Agent Zigzag, tells the story of David Stirling, the eccentric young officer who was given permission by Churchill to recruit the most ruthless soldiers he could find, thereby founding the most mysterious military organisation […]

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  • CRAEFT: HOW TRADITIONAL CRAFTS ARE ABOUT MORE THAN JUST MAKING
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    In a period of meaningless mass manufacturing, handcrafted products command a premium. But there was a time when craft meant something very different; the Old English word cræft possessed an almost indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom, and power. Historian and broadcaster Alex Langlands investigates the mysterious lost meaning, resurrecting the ancient craftspeople who fused exquisite […]

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  • VIETNAM: AN EPIC TRAGEDY 1945-1975
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    In an acclaimed retelling of the Vietnam tragedy, Max Hastings offers a balanced account of how and why the Vietnam War unfolded as it did, and a gripping description of what it was like to take part, based on the testimony of scores of participants – communist and anti-communist Vietnamese, Chinese railway engineers, Soviet missile […]

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  • THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
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    The story of philosophy is an epic tale: from classical antiquity to the present, it is the unending quest for an understanding of reality, truth and value by some of the most creative minds in the world. Professor Anthony Grayling gives a comprehensive account of the great adventure of philosophy, mainly in the Western tradition […]

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  • 43. BAITING THE RUSSIAN BEAR
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    With Mary Ann Sieghart in the chair, Peter Frankopan, Marina Litvinenko and Edward Lucas look at the historical background to the rapidly re-emerging cold war. From the Napoleonic Wars to the Second World War and beyond, through to the current escalating tensions, they explain why the West has traditionally had such a fraught relationship with […]

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  • 42. AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS
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    In this talk to senior school pupils, Dr Gareth Davies explains what ‘Jim Crow’ was, and what sustained it before examining what destabilised and finally destroyed it. He finishes by discussing what replaced ‘Jim Crow’ and shows evidence of progress.

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  • 41. THE AGINCOURT ARCHER
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    Experimental archaeologist Dave Allan discusses the daily life of an English longbowman from his training to the skills needed. Drawing upon real artefacts from different bows to arrowheads, this offers a compelling insight.

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