History lovers flock to Malmesbury for sell-out History Weekend event

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Hundreds of history lovers travelled to the historic town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire this weekend for a host of talks from leading historians and authors as BBC History Magazine staged its very first History Weekend event.

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The event opened on Friday evening with a double lecture on the life of Æthelstan, the first King of England, by Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford University, and TV presenter and historian Michael Wood, in the town’s beautiful 12-century abbey.

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Saturday saw lectures on topics ranging from the Norman Conquest, the battle of Flodden, and witchcraft, to the Second World War, the Plantagenets and the battle of the Atlantic, delivered by a host of well-known historians including Kate Williams, Dan Snow, Alison Weir, Marc Morris and Helen Castor.

One of the day’s highlights was a lively debate between historians Suzannah Lipscomb and Dan Jones on which dynasty played the most important role in Britain’s story: the Tudors or the Plantagenets.

Sunday’s programme, meanwhile, featured Janina Ramirez who explored the imaginative world of the Anglo-Saxons; Toby Wilkinson who looked at ancient Egypt – from the pyramids to Cleopatra; and Hannah Greig, who examined fashionable society in Georgian London. The festival drew to a close with lectures by Leanda de Lisle on the mysterious disappearance of the princes in the Tower, and Sir Max Hastings, who focused on 1914, the year Europe went to war.

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As well as the abbey, lectures also took place in Malmesbury Town Hall, where the Cirencester branch of Waterstones set up a book shop, and historians signed copies of their books and answered reader questions.

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Some attendees travelled to the event from as far afield as the US and Israel.

BBC History Magazine‘s editor, Rob Attar, said of the History Weekend: “We’re delighted that our first History Weekend festival has proved to be such a success. The speakers all did a wonderful job, but I was just as impressed with how knowledgeable and engaged the audiences were for each of the talks – which made for some lively Q&A sessions. It was a pleasure to meet so many readers at the event and I hope that they all enjoyed it as much as we did.”

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Look out for a slideshow of images taken during the History Weekend on this site soon
Photography © Steve Sayers