My favourite place: Sam Willis

In the September issue of BBC History Magazine, Sam Willis selects the Caribbean island of Antigua as his favourite historical destination. HistoryExtra caught up with him to find out more...


Q: When did you last travel to Antigua?
I last visited Antigua in 2012


Q: Why do you love the island?
I have only ever discovered one place that combines all the things I love in a holiday: nice beaches, cricket and interesting history. And that place is Antigua

Q: What top three sights would you recommend people visit while they are on Antigua?
English Harbour, where the British built a large dockyard in 1725; Betty’s Hope, the island’s first large sugar plantation; and the Recreation Cricket Ground, to catch some of the island’s most popular game

Q: What item would you suggest visitors take with them during a visit?
A cricket bat and swimmers (obviously!)

Q: What should people bring back home with them?
A new way of thinking about the past. Cherish it.

Q: During what period of its history would you most wanted to have visited Antigua and why?
I would have liked to have visited Antigua during the American Revolution. A key moment in the making of the modern world was played out in the Caribbean and what was happening at Antigua was central to the way that the war developed.

Q: Where else in the world would you most like to visit?
I would love to visit Hawaii and would make certain that I saw the USS Arizona wreck memorial at Pearl Harbour. I would also like to see the Colosseum in Rome and the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

What readers think of Antigua

Visit Nelson’s dockyard, his home 1784–87, eat at Roti King in St John’s, pick tamarind and swim with Hawksbill turtles

Go to Shirley Heights on a Sunday evening for entertainment and a splendid view of English Harbour

Visit nelsons dockyard. Go on a guided tour to see best bits.

Dr Sam Willis is a maritime historian, archaeoligist and presenter. Visit his website at

You can read Sam’s feature on Antigua in the September issue of BBC History Magazine – on sale from 14 August


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