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The London History Festival

The London History Festival

Monday 16 November to Thursday 26 November 2020

We are happy to welcome you to The London History Festival again this year, despite the strange times we are living in - this time we are inviting you to join us virtually, from the comfort of your own home.

This literary festival aims to bring the work of the finest historians to the widest possible audience.

Established in 2009 and hosted by Kensington Central Library each November, the Festival enables you to engage with some of today's most popular and most highly regarded historians.

This year we are putting on eight evening talks with eight wonderful authors presenting their latest books, in a programme of virtual events we hope will both entertain and enlighten you.

So why not come along, this is a real treat for all history buffs!

Prisoners of History with Keith Lowe

Monday 16 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

What happens when our values change, but what we have set in stone does not?

This question is explored by our first guest, Keith Lowe, in his brilliant Prisoners of History: What Monuments to the Second World War Tell Us About Our History and Ourselves.

Humankind has always had the urge to memorialise, to make physical testaments to the past. There’s just one problem: when we carve a statue or put up a monument, it can wind up holding us hostage to bad history.

In his extraordinary book, Keith Lowe uses monuments from around the world to show how different countries have attempted to sculpt their history in the wake of the Second World War, and what these memorials reveal about their politics and national identity today.

As many around the world are questioning who and what we memorialise, Prisoners of History challenges our idea of national memory, history, and the enormous power of symbols in society today.


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About the speaker:

Keith Lowe is recognised on both sides of the Atlantic as an authority on the Second World War and its aftermath. He is the author of several major works of history, including Inferno, a critically-acclaimed study of the bombing of Hamburg in 1943, a Sunday Times top ten bestseller Savage Continent, and Fear and the Freedom, an intimate history of the long-term consequences of the Second World War.

Lowe regularly speaks on TV and radio and lectures on post-war history at venues across Europe and North America. He has written for a variety of newspapers and journals, including the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

The Hitler Years with Frank McDonough

Tuesday 17 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

At the beginning of 1940 Germany was at the pinnacle of its power. By May 1945 Hitler was dead and Germany had suffered a disastrous defeat. Hitler had failed to achieve his aim of making Germany a super power and had left her people to cope with the endless shame of the Holocaust.

In his The Hitler Years - Disaster 1940-1945 our guest Professor Frank McDonough charts the dramatic change of fortune for the Third Reich, and challenges long-held accounts of the Holocaust and Germany's ultimate defeat.

Despite Hitler's grand ambitions and the successful early stages of the Third Reich's advances into Europe, he argues that Germany was only ever a middle-ranking power and never truly stood a chance against the combined forces of the Allies.


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About the speaker:

Professor Frank McDonough is an internationally renowned expert on the Third Reich. He studied history at Balliol College, Oxford and gained a PhD from Lancaster University. He has written many critically acclaimed books including The Gestapo, Hitler and the Rise of the Nazi Party and Sophie Scholl: The Woman Who Defied Hitler.

The Hitler Years: Triumph 1933-1939, the first volume charting the rise and fall of the Third Reich under Hitler's hand, came out in 2019. The Hitler Years: Disaster 1940-1945 was published by Head of Zeus earlier this year.

Professor McDonough lectures in the UK and abroad. He is a popular public speaker and runs one of the most popular history Twitter accounts in the world!

The Fragrance of Tears with Victoria Schofield

Wednesday 18 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Victoria Schofield presents a memoir of her thirty-three year friendship with an Oxford contemporary, Benazir Bhutto.

In her The Fragrance of Tears, she narrates with affection and emotional honesty the trajectory of her close and enduring bond with one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in South Asian politics – and a woman whose life and career were defined by tragedy.

Born to a wealthy and influential Pakistani family, Benazir Bhutto twice served as prime minister of her country, thereby becoming the first woman to head a democratic government in a predominantly Muslim nation. She was assassinated in December 2007 while attempting a political comeback.

Victoria Schofield provides first-hand insights into Bhutto's transformation from Oxford undergraduate to political activist, prisoner and politician against the backdrop of an increasingly turbulent region.

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About the speaker:

Victoria Schofield is a historian and commentator on international affairs, with special expertise on South Asia.

She has authored several books including Bhutto: Trial and Execution, Afghan Frontier: at the Crossroads of Conflict and Kashmir in Conflict. Her other published works include Wavell: Soldier and Statesman, The Highland Furies: The Black Watch 1739-1899 and The Black Watch: Fighting in the Front Line 1899-2006.

She is a regular contributor to numerous media outlets and has written for the Sunday Telegraph, The Times, the Independent and the Spectator.

Providence Lost with Paul Lay

Thursday 19 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

We are pleased to welcome Paul Lay to the Festival again this year, this time not as a host but presenting his brilliant Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell's Protectorate.

In his absorbing and beautifully written book, Paul narrates the story of England's first and only experiment with republican government.

He brings the febrile world of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate to life, providing vivid portraits of the extraordinary individuals who inhabited it.

Come along to what promises to be a real treat for all history buffs!


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About the speaker:

Paul Lay is editor of History Today.

He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a trustee of the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

Paul is also an old friend of the London History Festival. He has interviewed many of our guests and provided much needed support in our early years. It is a pleasure to present him as a speaker this year.

Providence Lost has been shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize 2020.

Valkyrie with Jóhanna Friðriksdóttir

Monday 23 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Valkyries: the female supernatural beings that choose who dies and who lives on the battlefield. They protect some, but guide spears, arrows and sword blades into the flesh of others.

Drawing on the latest historical and archaeological evidence, in her Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World Jóhanna Friðriksdóttir introduces us to the dramatic and intriguing texts recorded in medieval Iceland, and reveals a culture capable of imagining women in all kinds of roles wielding power, not just in this world, but in the other-world too.

In her fascinating book, Johanna uncovers the reality behind the myths and legends to reveal the dynamic and diverse lives of Viking women.

Come along to what promises to be an evening of magic, myth and power!


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About the speaker:

Jóhanna Friðriksdóttir is a medievalist and literary scholar. Her work is about Vikings, medieval Iceland and the reception of these in the modern era. She currently works at the National Library of Norway in Oslo.

Johanna completed a doctorate in medieval literature at the University of Oxford and held research fellowships at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies and at Harvard University. She was a lecturer at Yale University from 2017 to 2019.

Her publications include numerous articles, an edited volume and two books about medieval literature and manuscripts. She also works as a historical consultant for documentaries and feature films.

The Awakening with Charles Freeman

Tuesday 24 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Charles Freeman takes us on an enthralling journey, and provides us with a vital key to understanding the world we live in today. He presents his monumental and exhilarating history of European thought, from the fall of Rome in the fifth century AD to the Scientific Revolution thirteen centuries later.

Vivid in detail and informed by the latest scholarship, The Awakening: a History of the Western Mind AD 500 - 1700 is powered not by the fate of kings or the clash of arms but by deeper currents of thought, inquiry and discovery, which first recover and then surpass the achievements of classical antiquity, and lead the West to the threshold of the Age of Reason.


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About the speaker:

Charles Freeman is a specialist on the ancient world and its legacy. He has worked on archaeological digs on the continents surrounding the Mediterranean and develops study tour programs in Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

Freeman is Historical Consultant to the Blue Guides series and the author of numerous books, including the bestseller The Closing of the Western Mind , AD 381 and most recently, Holy Bones, Holy Dust. He lives in the UK.

Philip and Alexander with Adrian Goldsworthy

Wednesday 25 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

In his brilliant latest offering, Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors, Adrian Goldsworthy examines two of the titans of antiquity - Philip and Alexander of Macedon, who transformed a weak kingdom in northern Greece into a globe-spanning empire and in so doing, changed the course of history.

Between them, Philip and Alexander played a key role in spreading Greek language and culture over a vast area, the consequences of which were many and profound. It led to the New Testament being written in Greek and a Greek-speaking 'Roman' empire surviving in the eastern Mediterranean for a thousand years after the last emperor to rule from Italy.


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About the speaker:

Adrian Goldsworthy is a respected historian of the ancient world. He studied at Oxford, where his doctoral thesis examined the Roman army.

He is an author of a number of acclaimed works of non-fiction including Caesar, In the Name of Rome, Hadrian's Wall, Pax Romana, Antony and Cleopatra and Augustus.

He is also a popular novelist. His fiction includes the authentic and action-packed Vindolanda Trilogy, set in Roman Britain. He lives in South Wales.

A World Beneath the Sands with Toby Wilkinson

Thursday 26 November, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Travellers and treasure-hunters, ethnographers and epigraphers, antiquarians and archaeologists all understood that in pursuing Egyptology, they were part of a greater endeavour – to reveal a lost world, buried for centuries beneath the sands.

In A World Beneath the Sands, the acclaimed Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson tells the riveting stories of the men and women whose obsession with Egypt's ancient civilisation drove them to uncover its secrets. Champollion, Carter and Carnarvon are here, but so too are their lesser-known contemporaries.

Come along to what promises to be a real treat! After all, what could be more exciting, more exotic or more intrepid than those brave souls digging in the sands of Egypt in the hope of discovering golden treasures from the age of the pharaohs?

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About the speaker:

Professor Toby Wilkinson is an internationally acclaimed Egyptologist and award-winning author. His books include the critically acclaimed Early Dynastic Egypt, The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt and The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, which was a winner of the Hessell-Tiltman Prize.

Professor Wilkinson is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the international editorial board of the Journal of Egyptian History. He is a Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln and a Bye-Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. He lives in Suffolk.

KC LIB LHF LOGO GREYInformation about tickets and the platform:

The talks are delivered online, through Microsoft Teams live broadcast.

All those who book a ticket on Eventbrite will get a link to join the live broadcast 24hrs before the session, and a reminder 30 minutes before the scheduled start.

You should be able to access the talk through your browser, but will get a better experience if you have the Teams app.

You will be able to ask questions through the chat at the end of each talk.

Important note:

***Please avoid using Safari - we have had reports that Safari users are having issues accessing Teams live broadcasts. If you encounter problems when signing in, please try using a different browser like Chrome, Edge or any other. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause. We are working on finding a solution.