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Our Top Picks for Chalke Valley History Festival 2022

Chalke Valley History Festival 2022 is almost upon us. This year, there is so much going on - with talks on four stages as well as at Speaker's Corner and across the site, along with living history, various demonstrations and experiences for children - that we thought we should highlight just a few of our top picks, loosely broken down by period. Tickets for all of the talks, as well as for the outdoor events, can be purchased here.

PrehistoryThe time in the past that happened before history began to be recorded.The time in the past that happened before history began to be recorded. and Ancient

Tom Holland: Tales of Ancient Rome

Tom HollandThe original and best Tom Holland - polymathA person of wide knowledge or learning.A person of wide knowledge or learning.A person of wide knowledge or learning., classicist and cricket enthusiast - this year will be delighting the audience with his story of the Year of the Four Emperors. In AD 69, the Roman Empire experienced its first civil war, going through four emperors – Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and finally Vespasian – in quick succession. Tom Holland will bring his unique, vivid and colourful style to this gory tale of murder, mayhem, suicide and rampant ambition. Not to be missed!

Tom Holland will be speaking on Tuesday 21 June at 9.00 pm. He will also be speaking on the history of identity on the same day at 5.30 pm. To read our interview with him, click here.

Rebecca Wragg Sykes: Kindred

Archaeologist, popular science writer and broadcaster Rebecca Wragg Sykes explainsRebecca Wragg Sykes why the word ‘NeanderthalAn extinct species (or subspecies) of human who lived in Eurasia between up to 600,000 years ago (the first 'true' Neanderthals being from around 250,000 years ago) and about 40,000 years ago. They lived alongside modern humans and interbred with them.An extinct species (or subspecies) of human who lived in Eurasia between up to 600,000 years ago (the first 'true' NeanderthalsAn extinct species (or subspecies) of human who lived in Eurasia between up to 600,000 years ago (the first 'true' Neanderthals being from around 250,000 years ago) and about 40,000 years ago. They lived alongside modern humans and interbred with them. being from around 250,000 years ago) and about 40,000 years ago. They lived alongside modern humans and interbred with them.An extinct species (or subspecies) of human who lived in Eurasia between up to 600,000 years ago (the first 'true' NeanderthalsAn extinct species (or subspecies) of human who lived in Eurasia between up to 600,000 years ago (the first 'true' Neanderthals being from around 250,000 years ago) and about 40,000 years ago. They lived alongside modern humans and interbred with them. being from around 250,000 years ago) and about 40,000 years ago. They lived alongside modern humans and interbred with them.’ should not be an insult as she explores the often-misunderstood world of our palaeolithicThe 'Old Stone Age'. See 'The Chronology of the Stone Age'.The 'Old Stone AgeThe earliest part of human prehistory, running from about 3.3 million years ago until (in Britain) about 2500BCE. It is defined by the use of stones (rather than metals) as tools.'. See 'The ChronologyThe arranging of events in the order they occurred in time. of the Stone Age'.The 'Old Stone AgeThe earliest part of human prehistory, running from about 3.3 million years ago until (in Britain) about 2500BCE. It is defined by the use of stones (rather than metals) as tools.'. See 'The ChronologyThe arranging of events in the order they occurred in time. of the Stone Age'. cousins. With her first-hand experience at the cutting-edge of palaeolithic research, she will bring these people to life a way that has rarely been done before.

Rebecca Wragg Sykes will be speaking on Friday 24 June at 2.00 pm.

Medieval

Dan Jones: Powers and Thrones

Dan JonesWith his face regularly popping up on the Netflix screensaver, Dan Jones must be one of the best-known historians in Britain. This year, he will be coming to Chalke Valley to discuss the epic history of Europe and beyond, from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the ReformationThe split from the Roman Catholic Church of protestants, inspired by people such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli.The split from the Roman Catholic Church of protestants, inspired by people such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli.The split from the Roman Catholic Church of protestants, inspired by people such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli.. Based upon his book of the same name, he will explore not just the high politics, but those forces that impact everyday lives such as pandemics, the environment and trade. It is a fascinating, dramatic tale given by a fantastic public speaker, and tickets will probably sell out fast.

Dan Jones is speaking on Saturday 25 June at 10.30 am. He will also be talking about the Wars of the RosesA series of conflicts, during the second half of the fifteenth century, between two branches of the Plantagenet line: York and Lancaster. Over the course of 30 years the crown passed through several hands: Henry VI, Edward VI, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry Tudor. Most historians date the end of the Wars to Henry VII's victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, although it can be argued that they actually finally finished during the sixteenth century.A series of conflicts, during the second half of the fifteenth century, between two branches of the PlantagenetRelating to the English royal dynasty which held the throne from the accession of Henry II in 1154 until the death of Richard III in 1485. line: York and Lancaster. Over the course of 30 years the crown passed through several hands: Henry VI, Edward VI, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry Tudor. Most historians date the end of… on the same day at 2.00 pm. Click here to read our review of Powers and Thrones.

Michael Wood: In Search of the Dark Ages

Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his important and much-loved book, acclaimed Michael Woodbestselling historian and Professor of Public History Michael Wood will take his audience on an epic journey from the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain to the Norman Conquest. Bringing decades of experience and knowledge, along with an engaging and approachable style, Michael Wood’s talk promises to be utterly absorbing.

Michael Wood will be speaking on Wednesday 22 June at 5.30 pm. Michael Wood will also be giving a retelling of the ArthurianRelating to, or characteristic of, King Arthur.Relating to, or characteristic of, King Arthur.  legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight on Wednesday 22 June at 9.00 pm.

Early Modern

Clare Jackson: Devil-Land

Clare JacksonCambridge historian, writer and broadcaster Clare Jackson is returning this year to talk about England’s most troubled century, spanning the Armada of 1588 to the ‘Glorious’ Revolution one hundred years later. With an original take based on years of research and the kind of infectious enthusiasm that is a joy to watch, she will cover all of the big events, from the Gunpowder Plot to the civil wars, and the death of Elizabeth I to the ‘abdicationRenouncing the throne.Renouncing the throne.Renouncing the throne.’ of James II.

Clare Jackson will be speaking on Tuesday 21 June at 3.45 pm. To read our interview with her, click here.

Sam Willis: The Growth of British Naval Power

Sam WillisIn this talk, award-winning naval historian, explorer and broadcaster Sam Willis charts the development and growth of Britain as a maritimeConnected with the sea, especially in relation to seaborne trade or naval matters.Connected with the sea, especially in relation to seaborne trade or naval matters.Connected with the sea, especially in relation to seaborne trade or naval matters. power during the seventeenth century, from its first not-so-great adventurous reaches to its becoming an increasingly confident player on the world stage. Sam Willis can regularly be seen on television blowing stuff up, firing old weapons, and traipsing across the world. As a great speaker, both on-screen and off, he will delight the crowds with his fascinating talk.

Sam Willis will be speaking on Wednesday 22 June at 3.45 pm.

Modern

William Dalrymple: The AnarchyA civil war in England between 1135 and 1153. It can also to refer to the turbulent political landscape of late Mughal India.A civil war in England between 1135 and 1153. It can also to refer to the turbulent political landscape of late Mughal India.

William DalrympleIn his talk, the ever-popular broadcaster and bestselling historian William Dalrymple will explain the rise of the East India CompanyA monopolistic company formed for the exploitation of trade with Southeast Asia and India.A monopolistic company formed for the exploitation of trade with Southeast Asia and India. A monopolistic company formed for the exploitation of trade with Southeast Asia and India. as it transformed itself from a trading corporation into an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. It is a remarkable story of the first global corporate power, with practices and approaches that are as relevant now as they were then.

William Dalrymple will be speaking on Sunday 26 June at 12.15 pm. He will also discuss the history of Afghanistan on the same day at 2.00 pm.

Edward Shawcross: The Last Emperor of Mexico

Edward ShawcrossHappily sponsored by us! Based on his highly acclaimed first book, Edward Shawcross will tell the little-known story of the last emperor of Mexico, Napoleon III’s hapless Habsburg puppet. It is a tale that spans continents and civil wars, pitting Old World against New, conservatives against radicals, monarchies against republics, and is sure to entertain and captivate.

Edward Shawcross will be speaking on Friday 24 June at midday.

Twentieth Century

James Holland: Brothers in Arms

James HollandJames Holland is a bestselling historian of the Second World WarA global war that lasted from 1939 until 1945.A global war that lasted from 1939 until 1945. A global war that lasted from 1939 until 1945. , as well as programme director of Chalke Valley. His books include the first two volumes of The War in the West (the eagerly anticipated third is, hopefully, on its way soon), Normandy ’44, and his most recent, Brothers in Arms. In his talk, which is based on this book, he will be telling the gripping tale of one legendary tank regiment’s war, from the Normandy beaches to the bridges at Eindhoven. No less of a speaker than his brother, this absorbing story will undoubtedly pull in the crowds.

James Holland’s will be speaking on Tuesday 21 June at 7.30 pm. He will be discussing rural life in Chalke Valley from the 1940s to the present earlier that day, at 5.30 pm. He will also be participating in the Second World War Day, running throughout the morning of Thursday 23 June, and in a separate talk about the final months of the war later on the Thursday at 3.45 pm.

Will Iredale and Paul Beaver: Pathfinders

Will IredaleWill Iredale, journalist and author of Pathfinders (our favourite book of 2021), talks to distinguished aviation historian Paul Beaver about the men and women who revolutionized Britain’s air campaign against Germany during the Second World War. Thrilling and disturbing in equal measure, the exploits and trials of the Pathfinders, and the victims of the air campaign, will provide an engrossing conversation.

Will Iredale and Paul Beaver will be speaking on Wednesday 22 June at 2.00 pm. To read our review of Pathfinders, click here.

Current Affairs

Matt Frei: Ukraine

Matt FreiChannel 4 News’ Europe editor Matt Frei, who was on the ground from the start of the invasion of Ukraine, will discuss his experiences of the war with historian Tim Bouverie, calling out the Putin apologists and providing heart-breaking testimony from the countless Ukrainian victims. The conversation promises to be shocking, hard-hitting, and exceptionally important.

Matt Frei will be speaking on Saturday 25 June at 7.30 pm.

Adam Rutherford: Control

Adam RutherfordAdam Rutherford is a geneticist, writer and broadcaster, who excels at bringing science to the masses. In his talk, he explains the dark and troubling present of eugenics, discussing the ways the powerful have used ‘science’ to control population and reproduction. Starting with Darwin and going on to look at Nazi ideologyA system of ideas and ideals.A system of ideas and ideals. A system of ideas and ideals. , before considering the impact of modern gene editing techniques, this talk promises to be an important – yet accessible – insight into past and future thinking about humanity.

Adam Rutherford will be speaking on Tuesday 21 June at 7.30 pm.

For the kids (and adults)

The History Tellers

History TellersChalke Valley regulars The History Tellers will be back as usual, performing their accessible, informative and entertaining takes on history, complete with costumes and props. They will be performing at regular intervals across the week, covering everything from the most dangerous jobs in aviation history to the smallest (recorded) man ever to live in Britain. A must-see for children and adults alike. You can find an interview with them here.

Adam Schuch-des-Forges

Adam Schuch-des-ForgesActor and writer Adam Schuch-des-Forges returns after a few years off, this time as Dr Vainen Schuch-des-Forges. In previous incarnations, he has provided war stories – and phrases (‘It’s a bomb, and it will kill you’!) that have become part of our household parlance – as a representative of HM Queen Victoria and HM King George VI’s forces. Now, in his new series of brilliant talks stretching across the week, he warns against all charlatans, quacks and confidence tricksters while promoting his own guaranteed genuine miracle elixir, taking the audience on journeys across time and space, talking magic, science, and medicine.

Not forgetting

Histrionics Quiz Show

Always a blast, Histrionics is the ultimate panel show, delighting audiences with quickfire history-based humour and facts. This year the panels will be led by historian and broadcaster Dan Snow and editor of Private Eye and team captain of Have I Got News for You Ian Hislop, with Fast Show comedian and author Charlie Higson as quizmaster. Tickets always sell out fast, so early booking is essential!

Histrionics is on Friday 24 June at 7.30 pm. Dan Snow, Ian Hislop and Charlie Higson will also be speaking on a range of other topics – including Antarctica, Spike Milligan, and James Bond – across the weekend.

 

Pictures courtesy of Chalke Valley History Festival

Author Info

Debbie Kilroy

Having read history at the University of Birmingham as an undergraduate, where I won the Kenrick Prize, I worked as a trouble-shooter in the public sector until I took a career break in 2009. Thereafter, I was able to pursue my love of history and turn it into a career, founding Get History in 2014 with the aim of bringing accessible yet high quality history-telling and debate to a wide audience. Since then, I have completed a Masters in Historical Studies at the University of Oxford, from which I received a distinction and the Kellogg College Community Engagement and Impact Award. As well as continuing to write for and expand Get History, I am now a freelance writer and historian. I have worked with Histories of the Unexpected and Inside History, and my article for Parliaments, Estates and Representation won the ICHRPI Emile Lousse essay prize (2019).