Chalke Talk

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


Chalke Talks for CENTURY: C20th


  • 04. THE PARIS PEACE TREATIES
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    This talk by Dr Peter Caddick-Adams for senior pupils at the Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools, challenges some assumptions about the aftermath of the First World War. The armistice in 1918 was a truce but fighting continued in Eastern Europe and the Middle East for several years. He explains that the Treaty of Versailles […]

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  • 10. FIGHTING WITH THE FRENCH RESISTANCE
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    Jean Jammes was a schoolboy in 1944 when, that summer, he joined the Resistance group led by his father in the countryside around Épernon. Involved in numerous actions of sabotage, he also helped capture three German officers and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. In this very special event he talks to Peter Caddick-Adams about […]

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  • 12. THE PATIENT ASSASSIN: A TRUE TALE OF MASSACRE, REVENGE AND THE RAJ
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    On April 13th 1919, the British Indian Army opened fire on a crowd attending an unauthorised public meeting in Amritsar. Over 1,000 unarmed Indians were killed. Among the survivors was a young man who made a vow of vengeance that would ultimately prove successful. Prompted by her own family connections to the Amritsar massacre, Anita […]

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  • 14. APPEASING HITLER: CHAMBERLAIN, CHURCHILL AND THE ROAD TO WAR
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    On 30th September 1938, Neville Chamberlain stepped off an aeroplane and announced that his visit to Hitler had averted the greatest crisis in recent memory. He declared it was ‘peace for our time’, but within a year Britain was at war with Germany. Tim Bouverie gives a compelling reappraisal of the immense drama of those […]

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  • 15. BEHOLD, AMERICA: A HISTORY OF AMERICA FIRST AND THE AMERICAN DREAM
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    Professor Sarah Churchwell offers a history of “America First,” one of Trump’s campaign slogans. Although popular wisdom attributes the phrase to Charles Lindbergh and the isolationist “America First Committee” of 1940-1941, the expression has a longer, and darker, history, a story of nativism and the Ku Klux Klan, of “100 percent Americanism” and isolationism, and […]

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  • 16. A BRIDGE TOO FAR: A VETERAN OF ARNHEM
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    Peter Clarke was a glider pilot who landed and then fought with his fellow airborne troops at Arnhem in September 1944. Here, in conversation with Paul Beaver, he talks about and discusses his memories of that doomed battle and the remarkable story of what followed.

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  • 20. BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS: CECIL BEATON, REX WHISTLER AND THE WILTSHIRE SET
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    From the hedonistic Bright Young Things of the 1920s emerged a group of artists who found inspiration and freedom in south Wiltshire where they discovered havens in which they could push the boundaries of artistic freedom. Cecil Beaton and Rex Whistler were among the finest artists of their generation, one a photographer and designer, the […]

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  • 21. MARGARET THATCHER: A LIFE AND LEGACY
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    As Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, and one of the most controversial figures in twentieth century Britain, few people have been more discussed than Margaret Thatcher. Preeminent academic Sir David Cannadine gives a historian’s perspective on the life, politics and legacy of this formidable leader. He is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton, and General […]

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  • 23. THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE AND LEGACY
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    The First World War still captures the imagination, but how do you paint a picture of people that are long gone? How do you put their existence in context with the manner in which they died, so that future generations retain a connection to the human impact of WW1 that transcends tales of strategic success […]

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  • 24. UNDERSTANDING AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
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    At times America’s complicated system of Federalism has seemed like a model of rational and democratic government — at others it has seemed like a recipe for obstruction and chaos. Nicholas Cole discusses the circumstances in which America’s government was created, the objectives of its founders, and whether the assumptions of the eighteenth century are […]

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  • 26. D-DAY: BY THOSE WHO WERE THERE
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    In this moving event to mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, two veterans of that campaign talk about their experiences with Stuart Tootal, former commander of 3 Para in Afghanistan. Fred Glover (1926-2020) was the only British infantryman known to have fought with the French Resistance while David Render (1925-1917) served with the Sherwood Rangers […]

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  • 28. SALAFI-JIHADISM: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA
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    No topic has gripped the public imagination as dramatically as the spectre of global jihadism. While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. Shiraz Maher, an authority on radicalisation, charts the intellectual underpinnings of Salafi-Jihadism from its origins in the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the jihadist […]

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  • 29. THE SECRET LIFE OF BLETCHLEY PARK
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    The code breakers of Bletchley Park played an absolutely crucial part in the Allied victory in the Second World War. Best-selling historian Sinclair McKay tackles the story of this iconic place, drawing on his conversations with many of the brilliant men and women who served there during the war.

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  • 31. NATO: SAFEGUARDING FREEDOM – 1949 TO THE PRESENT
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    General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, a former Commander of UK Land Forces, spent three years as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, working with our NATO allies. This talk outlines his thoughts on the history of NATO, the challenges it has faced and those that still confront it today as the ripples of discord sweep across […]

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  • 33. SOLDIER, SPY: A SURVIVOR’S TALE
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    Victor Gregg (born 1919) had an extraordinary war and his adventures did not end in 1945. In this very special event, he discusses with Rick Stroud what it was like fighting in North Africa, escaping the ruins of Dresden where he had been a prisoner of war on the night the city was bombed, and […]

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  • 34. THE DREYFUS AFFAIR
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    In this talk, best-selling author Robert Harris turns to one of the key scandals in French history, the Dreyfus Affair. Discussing this infamous miscarriage of justice that rocked France in the years before the First World War, he brings new insights to this world of secret service dealings, cover-ups and betrayal…

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  • 36. THEY CALLED IT PASSCHENDAELE
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    Lyn Macdonald remains revered as the great chronicler of the human experience of the Western Front and has recorded interviews with more veterans of the First World War than any other. In this talk she returns to the subject of her first book, the Battle of Passchendaele, fought over a hundred years ago in 1917, […]

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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