History Weekend celebrates second successful year

Malmesbury was abuzz with excitement over the weekend as thousands of history fans flocked to the Wiltshire market town to listen to talks by top-name historians and authors, in BBC History Magazine’s second annual festival of history

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The History Weekend is the centerpiece of BBC History Magazine’s events programme (the next being the Magna Carta and Waterloo days at Bristol’s MShed museum on 21 and 22 March 2015).

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The four-day history festival, which took place in Malmesbury Abbey, Malmesbury Town Hall, a special marquee and the Old Bell Hotel, featured almost twice as many speakers as last year – close to 40 leading historians, writers and television personalities.

The festival kicked off on Thursday afternoon with a lecture by Paddy Ashdown on the neglected D-Day story of the Resistance uprising, while elsewhere Ronald Hutton delivered a talk on Britain’s pagan heritage. Later that evening, Tracy Borman and Hilary Mantel enthralled with their sold-out double lecture on Thomas Cromwell.

Friday saw talks by Jessie Childs, Charlotte Higgins, Justin Marozzi and Anna Whitelock, as well as two double lectures by Harry Sidebottom and Tom Holland, and Andrew Roberts and Saul David.

Saturday’s jam-packed line-up featured Suzannah Lipscomb, Dan Jones and Janice Hadlow, who delivered sell-out lectures respectively on politics at the court of Henry VIII; the fall of the Plantagenents and the rise of the Tudors, and the private life of George III. Meanwhile, Chris Skidmore MP investigated the ambitions and experiences of Richard III, seeking to understand what drove him to become king, and how his downfall at Bosworth came about.

Among the Sunday highlights was Dominic Sandbrook’s lecture on the top 10 defining moments in British history since 1945, and Miles Russell’s talk on the lost voices of Celtic Britain. Dan Snow and Janina Ramirez closed the festival with their discussions of the myths and realities of World War One, and the Hundred Years’ War.

Festival director, Dave Musgrove, said: “This year’s History Weekend seemed to hit the spot for history enthusiasts. We had 40 great speakers, across four venues and four days. Too many highlights to mention, but the real pleasure for me and all the speakers was the brilliant questions that came from the audience – every talk could have gone on for another hour with the quality of the questions that were flowing”.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook told History Extra: “The History Weekend at Malmesbury is easily my favourite book festival. It’s supremely well organised and the setting is wonderful, but above all, the audience is fantastically encouraging, friendly and well informed. I especially look forward to the questions, and this year’s audience were better than ever.”

Meanwhile Jessie Childs said: “My day in Malmesbury for BBC History Magazine‘s History Weekend was a complete joy – the Abbey was stunning, the audience was bright, cheery and incredibly well-informed, and everything was beautifully organised.

“Lovely to meet the team behind the magazine, and I also really enjoyed speaking to our future historians at Malmesbury School before my talk.”

A number of festival-goers took to Twitter to share their feedback about the festival. User @jessnewhall wrote: “Such an fantastic weekend of insights, history nerd crush sightings and inspiration. Thanks to @HistoryExtra #HistoryWeekend – see you nxt yr!”

Meanwhile @Nickybutts wrote: “A great festival, great speakers, great volunteers, great venue – here’s to next year bigger and better”.

And @WillJillaby said: “Thanks so much to everyone at BBC history mag. Had a fab weekend in Malmesbury. Such enthusiasm from all the speakers.”

Meanwhile @elli_e_copter tweeted: “Reflecting on the weekend, I met the people who really inspire me to pursue history as a profession. @HistoryExtra Thank you so much.”

Here you can take a look at some of the weekend highlights in pictures (taken by Steve Sayers).

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If you would like to find out more about BBC History Magazine events, and want to be the first to know when we announce details of our 2015 History Weekend, please register here.

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To buy tickets to our next events – the Magna Carta and Waterloo days at Bristol’s MShed museum on 21 and 22 March 2015 – click here.