BBC History Magazine’s History Weekend returned to the historic city of York for the second year running, this time surrounded by the Roman artefacts and dramatic medieval ruins of the Yorkshire Museum. “We had a fantastic weekend in York,” said BBC History Magazine’s publisher, Dave Musgrove. “Our new venues seemed to work very well, the speakers’ talks were all fascinating, and the audiences were – as ever – remarkably well-informed about a wide range of historical topics.”
The weekend got off to a stellar start on Friday evening with talks on the history of public punishment from York academic James Sharpe, and the importance of black people to British history from David Olusoga. Other highlights included insights into the political wrangling involved in the Suez crisis and Aleppo from Alex Von Tunzelmann and Philip Mansel, as well as illuminating looks at the medieval world from Marc Morris, Janina Ramirez and Tom Holland. The speakers also took time to meet fans and autograph books.
On Sunday, audiences headed down to the museum garden’s atmospheric and intimate 14th-century Hospitium for more talks and book signings. Cultural historian Fern Riddell got the morning off to a racy start with a frank re-examination of Victorian attitudes to sex. Later in the day, Andrew Lownie recounted the remarkable life of Second World War spy Guy Burgess, while Tom Holland enlightened audiences about Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan.
Yorkshire Museum’s 14th-century Hospitium.
Several of the historians and authors who spoke at the weekend shared their experiences on social media. Fern Riddell tweeted “huge thanks to History Extra for asking me to be part of the History Weekend, I loved it!”, while Chris Skidmore posted: “Enjoyed speaking tonight on Richard III in beautiful York – great audience and questions.” George Goodwin added that he “had a terrific time at History Extra’s weekend in York”.
Meanwhile Simon Sebag Montefiore, who discussed the Russian royal Romanov dynasty, tweeted: “Thank you dear huge indulgent audience of York for coming to my talk on Ivan the Terrible, Trump, Rasputin & Putin”. Janina Ramirez, who recounted the story of medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, tweeted, “Oh York, you gorgeous bundle of loveliness! Every visit is a joy. Thanks to all the fab people at BBC History Magazine tonight. Rock n’ roll history!”
Many audience members who joined us in York also took to social media to share their feedback. Georgia Threadgold tweeted: “had an amazing time, lovely venue, so well organised,” while Ceri Hill posted, “fascinating day at History Extra’s York conference. Such funny and insightful talks from Simon Montefiore & Joanne Paul”. Beth Wyatt added “Thank you History Extra for an amazing York History Weekend – fab speakers and brilliant to see such a wide spectrum of topics discussed,” while Fran tweeted: “Wonderful time at History Weekend, so sad to be leaving beautiful York. Great speakers and venues”. Mark Crail also got in touch to say: “A great event with brilliant speakers. Really enjoyed it and will be back next year”.
The weekend even won over some new history fans, as Evan tweeted, “After the History Extra weekend I will be reading up more about the Tudors! Thanks Tracy Borman and Suzannah Lipscomb, I was never really into history but came with my partner and loved it! Tudor gossip for the win!”
Following the success of this year’s History Weekends in York and Winchester, the BBC History Magazine team is looking forward to hosting two days of talks at Bristol’s M Shed in February 2017: a Victorian Day on Saturday 25th and a Second World War Day on Sunday 26th.