History news, books and exhibitions: what to expect from 2014

As the new year gets underway, we consider what may lie ahead in the world of history over the next 12 months



King Alfred excavation


Could ‘Richard III mania’ be repeated this year, with the discovery of King Alfred the Great?

Permission was in August granted to see if remains from an unmarked grave are those of the king.

Scientific tests are expected to begin on the remains at St Bartholomew’s Church, Winchester, after community group Hyde900 saw its application approved.

The group has been granted a licence – known as a faculty – to start examining the remains.

Remembering the First World War

2014 will, of course, see the centenary of the First World War.

The BBC will mark the centenary with its biggest ever programming schedule, boasting more than 2,500 hours of television and radio.

Meanwhile, Newark Town FC will play a ‘Christmas truce’ match at the spot where one of the famous First World War games is thought to have taken place.

David Cameron has pledge £5m funding to preserve war memorials, and Helen Grant, the minister for sport, tourism and equalities, has announced £51,100 of Heritage Lottery Funding for new First World War projects across the North West.

Tests on ‘Roman child coffin’

Tests are being carried out on a soil sample taken from a coffin believed to date from the third century AD.

Found by metal detectorist Chris Wright in a field close to the Leicestershire/Warwickshire border, the lead coffin is thought to contain the remains of a child.

Inside the coffin, a team of six archaeologists found tiny bone fragments embedded in layers of clay silt.

They also found two bangles made of jet.


2014 will see a slew of books released to mark the centenary of the First World War. Nigel Jones’s Peace and War: Britain in 1914 (Head of Zeus, February) explores the UK’s involvement in the conflict, and how its effects changed the nation indelibly.

Another mass conflict and its repercussions are dissected in Goodbye to All That? The Story of Europe Since 1945 (Oxford University Press, January), Dan Stone’s look at the continent’s changing political and economic fortunes in the years after the Second World War. From the breakdown of the consensus against fascism to the tensions caused by the oil crises of the 1970s, Stone places recent financial and social issues into a wider historical context.

The politics of an earlier age, meanwhile, are charted in God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs (The Bodley Head, March). From dawn raids to exile communities, Childs documents the experiences of one Catholic family and the ways in which they were linked with tensions at the very top of society.

Among the historical biographies set to hit the shelves in the coming months, Michael Broers’s Napoleon: A Soldier of Destiny (Faber and Faber, March) stands out for making use of a wide range of the military and political leader’s correspondence, recently compiled by the Fondation Napoléon in Paris. As well as his thoughts on major military campaigns, the book also reveals new insights into how Napoleon saw himself and others.

Finally, in Ten Cities That Made an Empire (Allen Lane, June), the shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt examines the British empire through the lens of the 10 urban settlements that he deems the most important, from Calcutta and Cape Town to Boston and Bombay. In doing so, he chronicles both the way in which empire shaped life within those cities, and the ways in which they shaped the empire as a whole.

We’ll be reviewing many more books in each issue of BBC History Magazine, as well as talking to leading authors every week on our podcast.


2014 looks set to be a great year for history lovers, with events and exhibitions taking place all over Britain.

The Vikings will be coming to the British Museum in March in an exhibition that will feature new archaeological discoveries and objects never seen before in the UK, alongside important Viking Age artefacts from the British Museum’s own collection and elsewhere in Britain and Ireland. At the heart of the exhibition will be the surviving timbers of a 37-metre-long Viking warship dating to around AD 1025 and excavated from the banks of Roskilde fjord in Denmark in 1997.

A number of exhibitions and events commemorating the centenary of the First World War can be found across Britain in 2014 – from the RNLI’s four-year touring exhibition highlighting the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people who volunteered for the RNLI throughout the conflict, to the opening of the Imperial War Museum’s First World War Galleries in July.

The V&A’s spring exhibition will examine the life and work of William Kent, the leading architect and designer of early Georgian Britain, marking 300 years since the accession of the Hanoverians to the throne of Britain. The exhibition will bring together nearly 200 examples of Kent’s work including architectural drawings for buildings such as the Treasury, Chiswick House and Horse Guards at Whitehall.

Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum will be hosting an exhibition that will tell the story of one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century: the discovery of the Egyptian boy king Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Opening in July, visitors can see masterpieces from the Ashmolean’s own collections from ancient Egypt and Sudan, as well as loans of important pieces from museums around the world.

Elsewhere, the National Museum of Scotland will cast a spotlight on the Ming dynasty, focusing on the many cultural, technological and economic achievements of the period. The exhibition opens in June and will display original artefacts from the Nanjing Museum, including Chinese national treasures.


We’ll be covering these and many other events and exhibitions throughout the year in the out and about pages of BBC History Magazine.