My favourite place: Sean McGlynn

In the February 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine, historian Sean McGlynn selects Languedoc in France as his favourite historical destination. HistoryExtra caught up with him to find out more...

ANN6TY France Languedoc Roussillon Carcassonne La Cite of Carcassonne

Q: When did you last travel to Languedoc and why were you there?

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In March 2013 to research my book on the Albigensian Crusade of 1209–1229. I wanted to see first-hand the castles and landscape to understand how such powerful fortresses could be taken. It was also something of a boy’s road trip, as I was accompanied by a good friend and my son.

Q: Why do you love Languedoc so much?

Ever since my postgraduate days I have wanted to visit the area. It did not disappoint. The castles are truly spectacular, but so is the landscape. The way of life is also very appealing.

Q: What top 3 sights would you recommend people visit while they are there, and why?

Albi city, with its wonderful medieval cathedral and its huge, spectacular Doomsday mural and vibrant ceiling.
Montaillou, for its atmosphere of connection with the past.
Montségur, a truly remarkable setting with inspiring views and sobering history.

Q: During what period of its history would you most wanted to have visited Languedoc and why?

Certainly not the 13th-century – that would be far too dangerous and traumatic for my liking! I would like to go back in the 19th-century, before extensive tourism and a time when there was a closer connection between the cities and rural society. Béziers would be especially interesting in this period.

Q: Where else in the world would you most like to visit and why?

As a medievalist I tend to focus on Europe. But I would love to visit the Easter Islands for the sense of a civilisation isolated from the outside world – both historically and in the present-day.

Next month, Dominic Sandbrook visits Plovdiv in Bulgaria. Share your tips for would-be travellers on Twitter  (@HistoryExtra) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/HistoryExtra)

Sean McGlynn’s forthcoming book, ‘Kill Them All’: Cathars and Carnage in the Albigensian Crusade, will be published in March 2015

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You can read Sean’s feature on Languedoc in the February 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine – on sale from 29 January