1) Top speakers
From broadcasters Marc Morris and David Olusoga to acclaimed authors Tracy Borman and Simon Sebag Montefiore, this year’s festival includes talks from some of the leading names in the history world.
Joanne Paul will bust 10 myths about Thomas More, who was chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII; James Sharpe will explore why we stopped punishing criminals in public; and George Goodwin will be discussing Benjamin Franklin’s time in London.
Other highlights include Tom Holland’s talk on Æthelstan and the making of England, and Chris Skidmore’s exploration of why Richard III decided to seize the throne. Juliet Barker, meanwhile, will separate myth from reality to discover the real Charlotte Brontë, asking how much of Mrs Gaskell’s 1857 Life of Charlotte Brontë is true.
2) Historic York
York Minster, Clifford’s Tower and the York Dungeon are among the many historical attractions to be found in the picturesque city of York.
At York Castle Museum you can stroll down an authentically recreated Victorian Street, visit Dick Turpin’s cell and step inside Jacobean dining rooms. Or why not find out how York became the UK’s home of chocolate, with a guided tour at York’s Chocolate Story? You can also discover more than 300 years of rail history at the Railway Museum.
York Minster, one of Britain’s most impressive medieval buildings, is not to be missed, nor is Clifford’s Tower, which was originally built by William the Conqueror and offers panoramic views over Old York.
3) Atmospheric venues
This year’s festival will take place across two fantastic venues right in the heart of the historic city of York: the Yorkshire Museum, which is surrounded by the York Museum Gardens, and the nearby 14th-century Hospitium building, which is overlooked by the striking ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.
There’s plenty to explore between lectures – the Yorkshire Museum is home to some of Britain’s greatest treasures. Its collections reveal the early history of York and include internationally important Roman, Viking and medieval artefacts, such as the Head of Constantine the Great (a twice life-size statue of the Roman emperor’s head), the Middleham Jewel (a 15th-century gold and sapphire pendant) and the York Helmet (an eighth-century Anglo-Saxon artefact).
Opened in 1830, it was one of England’s earliest purpose-built museums, established to house the collections of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. It was built in the grounds of York’s Abbey, St Mary’s, on land given by royal grant in 1086. The museum was constructed over the remains of some of the Abbey buildings, which can still be seen in the basement.
4) Book signings
Meet your favourite historians after their lectures – our speakers will be holding book signings at our Waterstones pop-up bookshop, where you can also buy copies of their latest works.
5) Learn leadership lessons from the Tudors and how to please your wife…
Join television historian Suzannah Lipscomb as she takes a light-hearted look at 20 leadership lessons from the Tudors. Suzannah’s talk will include an abundance of fascinating historical gems gathered over years of studying this powerful dynasty.
Meanwhile, cultural historian and Ripper Street consultant Fern Riddell will look at the practical (and impractical) advice the Victorians had for a life of marital bliss. We often think of the Victorians as prudish, but as Fern will reveal, our 19th-century ancestors had a much more modern attitude towards sex and love than we might realise!