Chalke Talk

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


Chalke Talks for REGION: Britain


  • 02. THE KING’S WITCH: JAMES I AND THE GUNPOWDER PLOT
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    In this talk, inspired by her debut novel partially set at nearby Longford Castle, Festival favourite Tracy Borman takes us into the turbulent world of the early Stuart court, where King James I waged a war on witches and Catholics alike. It was not long before a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament […]

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  • 11. THE NOBLE REVOLT: THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR
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    John Adamson is one of the country’s most brilliant historians and a leading authority on the Civil War. In this talk, he discusses what he calls ‘the noble revolt,’ challenging some of our perceptions of that conflict between Parliament and King while casting new and relevant light onto one of the most tumultuous and significant […]

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  • 17. BRITAIN BEGINS
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    12,000 years ago, as the ice sheets retreated, bands of hunter- gatherers spread slowly northwards from mainland Europe, re- colonizing the islands we know as Britain and Ireland. Who were our early ancestors and how directly can we trace our modern population back to them? Sir Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Oxford, explains […]

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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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  • 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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  • 25. THE DRAMA OF THE GREAT REFORM BILL 1832
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    In November 1930, the Duke of Wellington declared. ‘the beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution. Despite his fears, a bill to introduce greater democracy was duly presented to Parliament. Eminent historian, Antonia Fraser, discusses with William Waldegrave how this most divisive of bills led to a complete change in the way Britain was […]

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  • 27. KING ALFRED AND THE BATTLE FOR WESSEX
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    Broadcaster and historian Professor Michael Wood tells the incredible story of King Alfred’s Battle for Wessex. After defeat at Chippenham, Alfred’s kingdom was reduced to a postage stamp of marshland in Somerset, yet he survived and built his army again, leading them to victory at Ethandun. It is unquestionably one of the great moments in […]

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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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  • 32. LIVING IN THE IRON AGE
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    In this talk, specially designed for younger pupils, Chris Culpin develops and widens their knowledge of the Iron Age. Using examples of their extraordinary metalwork and impressive hill-forts, the talk shows how different archaeological techniques continue to broaden our understanding of life in Iron Age Britain.

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  • 37. TUDOR DYEING: FROM SHEEP TO CLOTH
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    From the process of dyeing to the weave, mother and daughter team Lindsey and George Ratcliffe demonstrate how Tudors would have prepared wool from fleece and turned it into a range of clothing.

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  • 38. THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE
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    James Rebanks’s personal memoir and history of life as a Lakeland shepherd was a surprise best-seller, inspired by reading W.H. Hudson’s iconic account of a Wiltshire shepherd as a young man. In this talk he explains the timeless nature of this special form of farming which, in the Lakeland fells, remains largely unchanged over the […]

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  • 40. THIS IS SHAKESPEARE
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    Shakespeare, a genius and prophet whose timeless works encapsulate the human condition like no others. A writer whose vision, originality and literary mastery were second to none. Professor Emma Smith debunks these common perceptions of the Bard and instead introduces an intellectually, theatrically and ethically exciting writer who treated topics such as individual agency, privacy, […]

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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