Chalke Talk

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


Chalke Talks for THEME: Social History


  • 01. NO TURNING BACK: LIFE, LOSS AND HOPE IN WARTIME SYRIA
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    Award-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid presents reportage of unprecedented scope. From the first rumblings of dissent in 2011, she shows the unravelling of a nation: peaceful protests collapsing into violence, families shattered, and religious conviction sharpened by rage to a radical point. She reveals how Syrians found new ways to resist as the cruelty of the […]

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  • 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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  • 09. ISTANBUL: A TALE OF THREE CITIES
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    Award-winning historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes gives a captivating portrait of the momentous life of Istanbul based on meticulous research gathered over a decade and brand new archaeological evidence. A ground-breaking history of this world-class city from its very beginnings in Neolithic times through 8,000 years of human habitation to the present.

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 99. THE GOLDEN THREAD: HOW FABRIC CHANGED HISTORY
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    From 30,000-year-old threads found in a Georgian cave to the linen wrappings of Tutankhamun’s mummy; from the lace ruffs that infuriated the puritans to the Indian calicoes and chintzes that powered the Industrial Revolution, Kassia St Clair reveals how the continual reinvention of cloth weaves a fascinating story of human ingenuity.

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  • 103. THE ONCE AND FUTURE FARM
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    Today farmers face unprecedented changes, exacerbated by Britain’s uncertain relationship with Europe. In this highly topical event, our experts discuss how farming has survived revolutions and reformations from the end of the 19th century to the present, and what can be done to ensure our mutual future prosperity.

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  • 111. A HISTORY OF SPORTING GENIUS
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    Why are some touched with sporting greatness? What is it that lifts mortal men to achieve sporting pinnacles? And why is it that so many sporting greats are also touched with self-destruction? In this discussion, we were thrilled to bring together three experts and a passionate observer to delve deep into the lives and brilliance […]

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  • 114. 1944 AT HIGHCLERE CASTLE
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    In 1944 Highclere Castle was a home for child evacuees; General Patton arrived for lunch in June; whilst two P-38 planes crashed just above the Castle whilst practising for D-Day. The Land Girls and retired estate workers were on the farm and in the kitchen gardens – Dig for Victory was part of the survival plan. Fiona Carnarvon paints a fascinating portrait of an […]

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  • 119. THE BIG BAD GLOSSIES: A PARTISAN HISTORY OF POST-WAR MAGAZINES
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    With a career that has spanned 30 years at the most senior levels of Condé Nast International, no one is better placed to give an insider view of the world of the glossy magazine than Nicholas Coleridge, at the time, Chairman of Condé Nast Britain. In this talk, he combines anecdote and scholarship to review […]

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  • 142. GENTLEMEN BEHAVING BADLY: EIGHTEENTH CENTURY RAKES AND RASCALS
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    When a pious Swiss traveller visited London in the 1720s, he complained that ‘debauch runs riot with an unblushing countenance’. But just how badly behaved was the average English gentleman? Drawing on diaries, letters and gallows confessions, award-winning author Antonia Hodgson explores the lives of several fascinating rogues – from the amiable to the downright […]

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  • 159. THE FEAR AND THE FREEDOM: HOW THE SECOND WORLD WAR CHANGED US
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    Keith Lowe has undertaken a pioneering and vitally important exploration of the aftermath of the war, how it affected different peoples and countries, and the unprecedented geopolitical, social, psychological and economic imprint it caused. In this talk he discusses his findings and explains why the war is still both important and highly relevant to this […]

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  • 161. A HERO FOR HIGH TIMES: A Guide to the Beats, Hippies, Freaks, Punks, Ravers, New-Age Travellers and Dog-on-a-rope Brew Crew Crusties of the British Isles 1956-1994
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    A free spirit who embraced the post-war counter-culture, Ian Marchant takes us on a splendid journey through some of his personal highs from the age of the Beats to the protests of Swampy.

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  • 183. THE FINAL TABOO: A HISTORY OF GRIEF
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    Death is the last taboo in our society, and grief is still profoundly misunderstood. In conversation with Dan Snow, Julia Samuel, a grief psychologist and Founder of Child Bereavement UK, explores past attitudes to grief and the historical context of death and dying in this country, from the Victorians to the present day, with particular […]

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  • 197. BREAD FOR ALL: THE ORIGINS OF THE WELFARE STATE
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    From the Victorian workhouse to the National Insurance and National Health Service Acts that came into effect in 1948, Chris Renwick exploreS the welfare state’s evolution, one of the greatest transformations in British intellectual, social and political life. He challenges common assumptions about what the welfare state was originally for and in doing so aska […]

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