What to expect from 2015: history news, books and exhibitions

From the BBC’s dramatisation of Wolf Hall to the reinterment of Richard III, 2015 looks set to be an exciting year. Here, we take a look at what lies ahead in the world of history...



The reinterment of Richard III


Since the discovery of his remains underneath a Leicester car park in 2012, Richard III has dominated the history headlines. Debate has raged over where he should be reburied – and whether the skeleton is even his – but the saga will enter its final chapter in March 2015, when the former monarch is reinterred at Leicester Cathedral. The service, due to take place on Thursday 26 March, will be attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Nazi art trove to go on display

A treasure trove of artworks discovered in February 2012 in a Munich flat belonging to the son of a Nazi-era art dealer is expected to go on display to the public in 2015.

Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May aged 81, had bequeathed his entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland’s oldest art museum. In November 2014 an agreement was signed in Berlin between Germany and Switzerland that will see Bern take on several hundred works from the collection, which includes paintings and drawings by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Claude Monet, the Guardian reports. The collection is reportedly expected to go on display to the public in 2015.

Under the agreement, works whose owners have yet to be identified will be left in Germany until their provenance has been traced. Christoph Schäublin, the president of the Kunstmuseum Bern, told the Guardian that central to the agreement was a guarantee that “looted art or works…  suspected of being stolen by the Nazis will stay in Germany”.

Magna Carta’s 800th birthday

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta – a 13th-century document that safeguarded basic freedoms, and placed limits on the power of the crown. A large number of commemorative events are planned, and the British Library is launching a special exhibition – you can find further details of this below.


Our books editor Matt Elton looks ahead to what’s on offer in the world of history publishing over the coming months…

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2015, from big books written by big names, to titles that shed new light on crucial points in time. These are just eight of the upcoming highlights:

In January, David Crane will be exploring the lives of English people who fought against Napoleon in Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo (William Collins). From the accounts of individuals to the impact of the fighting on society at large, this promises to offer new insights into the battle in its 200th anniversary year.

Meanwhile Anita Anand’s Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary (Bloomsbury), published the same month, explores issues of empire, gender and celebrity through the prism of one woman and her family: Sophia Duleep Singh, god daughter to Queen Victoria and prominent campaigner for women’s rights. My interview with Anand is due to be published in our February issue – hers is a fascinating subject that deserves greater prominence.

Also getting the biographical treatment is John Maynard Keynes, perhaps best known for his innovations in the world of political economic theory. However, as Richard Davenport-Hines subtly argues in Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes, due to be published by William Collins in March, Keynes was much more than an economist. By devoting a chapter to a particular aspect of his life and personality, Davenport-Hines brings the man, and his contradictions, vividly to life.

Elsewhere, two upcoming books offer new takes on familiar subjects. The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC is one of the most famous events in classical history, yet, as Barry Strauss asserts in The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination (Simon and Schuster, March 2015), there may be more to the event than has previously been accepted. Strauss will be writing a feature for BBC History Magazine exploring his argument, so don’t miss that in the New Year.

Another book to watch out for is The Old Boys: The Decline and Rise of the Public School (Yale), which explores the history of the institution and comes to a perhaps surprising conclusion: that such schools have never been in better shape than they are today. It looks set to be a contentious argument, and one that we’ll be exploring a feature for the magazine later on in 2015.

The battle of Waterloo, as I’ve already mentioned, is one of the events being marked by major anniversaries over the coming months. David Starkey’s Magna Carta, to be published by Hodder and Stoughton in April, explores another: the sealing of the hugely influential document at Runnymede in 1215. Starkey is an inimitable voice on TV and in print, so the book looks set to offer a distinctive overview of the charter and its impact.

December saw the launch of the new Penguin Monarchs series of concise biographies of kings and queens. Five have already been published; a further five, including Jane Ridley’s Victoria: Queen, Matriarch, Empress and Richard Barber’s Henry II: A Prince Among Princes, are due to follow in April. They offer acute, accessible overviews of the people who wore the crown.

Finally, May sees the return of one of the big hitters of history writing – Antony Beevor’s Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble (Viking) promises to be a masterful account of a crucial episode of the Second World War.

Of course, there’s plenty more besides, and our reviewers will be casting an expert eye over a diverse selection in BBC History Magazine throughout 2015 – starting with the January issue, in which we’ll be exploring Robert Tombs’ The English and their History, RF Foster’s Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890–1923, and many more. Don’t miss that from 2 January.

In the meantime, happy New Year!


Our features editor Charlotte Hodgman gives us a sneak peek at the exhibitions to look out for this year…

2015 is set to be another exciting year for history, as museums and galleries across the UK prepare to mark a number of landmark anniversaries.

The British Library will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta with an exhibition that explores the history and legacy of the document. Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, will run from 13 March to 1 September 2015, and forms part of a wider programme of events.

For lovers of fashion, the V&A will be showcasing some 200 pairs of shoes from around the world in June – from an ancient Egyptian sandal decorated in pure gold leaf to designs by contemporary shoe makers. Shoes: Pleasure and Pain will run from 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016.

Meanwhile, IWM London will be exploring how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing during the Second World War, often in new and unexpected ways. Fashion on the Ration is due to open on 5 March, and will run until 31 August.

Elsewhere, National Museums Liverpool is launching an exhibition in May on the world of the ancient Maya – a Mesoamerican civilization. Some 400 objects will be on show when Maya: the revelation of an endless time opens on 21 May.

And in Cambridge, an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Treasured Possessions – from Renaissance To Enlightenment, will take a journey through the decorative arts: from the hand crafted luxuries of the Renaissance to the first stirrings of mass commerce in the Enlightenment.


Look out for more on these, and many more, events and exhibitions in the out and about pages of BBC History Magazine.