Featuring lectures, free talks, tours, a debate and a quiz, the three-day festival brought together more than 20 of the UK’s leading popular historians who spoke in front of eager audiences.
“We had a fantastic few days in Winchester, with an array of amazing speakers, talking in tremendous lecture venues,” said Dave Musgrove, director of BBC History Magazine’s History Weekends. “As ever with these events though, it’s the audience that makes it and we were delighted that so many historically-engaged and informed visitors came and joined us for the weekend”.
Ryan Lavelle kicked off the weekend in Winchester’s atmospheric 13th-century Great Hall on Friday night with the dramatic story of Cnut, the Viking king who conquered England. On Saturday, highlights included sold-out talks from Suzannah Lipscomb and Tracy Borman, which offered some new insights into the Tudor dynasty. Ahead of the 950th anniversary of the battle of Hastings, Marc Morris analysed why the Norman conquest was such a defining moment in British history, while Tom Holland looked at the life of Aethelstan, the first king of England.
Meanwhile, over in Ashburton Hall, Jerry Brotton examined Elizabeth I’s relationship with the Islamic world, and Jonathan Dimbleby recounted the epic story of the battle of the Atlantic. Another highlight of the day saw Tom Holland, Alex von Tunzelmann, Nigel Jones and Roger Moorhouse debate whether British history is too fixated on the story of the two world wars, followed by a fiendish history quiz hosted by Julian Humphrys.
Sunday also had plenty to offer, especially for those interested in the world wars. David Reynolds and Alexander Watson enlightened audiences about the First World War, while Antony Beevor outlined the gruelling 1944 battle of the Ardennes. Meanwhile, James Holland examined the British tactics in Burma during the Second World War.
Also on Sunday, Michael Wood explored the achievements of Alfred the Great, and to conclude the festival Dan and Peter Snow led their audience on a whirlwind tour of some of the defining documents of British history.
Many of the historians who joined us in Winchester shared their experiences on Twitter. “What a venue!” said historian Tracy Borman of Winchester’s spectacular Great Hall. “Loved every minute! Congratulations on another superb festival”.
“It’s Comicon for history fans!” tweeted Dr Janina Ramirez, who spoke about medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. “What an amazing night! Thank you to everyone who came to Winchester for my talk, I need a lie-down!”
Historian Fern Riddell, whose talk explored Victorian attitudes to sex, love and marriage, tweeted: “Utter lovely time at Winchester’s History Weekend – fab crowd!” And Thomas More expert Dr Joanne Paul added: “Lovely engaged audience for at Winchester History Weekend. Great fun!”
A number of history fans who attended also took to Twitter to share their feedback. “I’ve had a superb weekend! Listened to some extremely talented and funny historians, so thank you!” said Linda Jane Allan, while Sophie Neal tweeted, “Great day at History Extra’s Weekend. There’s a possibility that I’ve learnt more about history today than in the last 20 years”.
Lorna J Summers got in touch to say: “Another superb day at Winchester History Weekend. Loved the WWI talk by David Reynolds and Burma 1944 by James Holland. Already looking forward to next year’s History Weekend!” Meanwhile, Ben Casey added: “Really enjoyed it, great venues and great talks. Will be back again next year!! #goodwork”.
Following the success of Winchester, the BBC History Magazine team is now looking forward to doing it all again next month. On 18–20 November the festival returns for the second year running to the historic city of York. More than 20 speakers will be giving talks in the stunning surroundings of the 14th-century Hospitium and at one of the city’s premier history attractions, the Yorkshire Museum. You can find out more about York History Weekend, and book tickets, here.
Here we round up some of the Winchester weekend’s highlights in pictures:
Winchester’s Great Hall
Tom Holland, Alex von Tunzelmann, Nigel Jones and Roger Moorhouse taking part in our world wars debate
Alex von Tunzelmann and Roger Moorhouse
BBC History Magazine’s Dave Musgrove
(Pictures by Jeni Nott)