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Winchester History Weekend: 5 minutes with Jonathan Dimbleby

Though often overlooked, the battle of the Atlantic was a crucial campaign that ultimately determined the outcome of the Second World War. At our Winchester History Weekend this autumn, Jonathan Dimbleby will tell the gripping story of the decisions that led to Allied victory and the horror that humanity endured in those perilous seas...

Published: July 7, 2016 at 9:10 am
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Ahead of his talk, ‘The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War’, we caught up with Jonathan to find out more and to learn about his passion for history…
Q: How and when did you first realise you had a passion for history?
A: When I realised as young TV reporter that I could not understand what I was seeing and hearing in Ethiopia without knowing something of the country’s past. A ‘snapshot’ distorts by default.
Q. Why do you love your period of history?
A: ‘Love’ is the wrong word. I am absorbed the more I learn about the Second World War. Not only by the human drama and horror of it all, but by the way in which key decisions were reached by those orchestrating a conflict that shaped our world today.
Q. Which other historical areas fascinate you and why?
A: More recent ‘contemporary’ history. I lived through much of it and reported the ways in which it unfolded. We now have perspective that gives clearer meaning to the drama of those postwar years in Britain and around the world.
Q: Which history book(s) are you reading at the moment?
A: Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler, Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis. A great work of scholarship that also makes the flesh creep.
Q: Are there any developments in your field that are really exciting you at the moment?
A: A greater appreciation of the role played by the tensions between the Kremlin and Berlin over the Balkans, which, as in the First World War, was the touch paper for the launch of Operation Barbarossa.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about the Winchester History Weekend? 
A: Having a chance to share my account of the battle of the Atlantic with others. Had the Allies not prevailed, the artery to Britain would have been severed, with incalculable consequences for Britain and for the outcome of the war.
Q: What can we expect from your talk at Winchester?
A: Stimulation, enjoyment, and – with luck – illumination.
Jonathan Dimbleby is a journalist, broadcaster and historian whose many presenting credits include hosting Any Questions on BBC Radio 4. His books include accounts of the battle of the Atlantic and the desert war. You can find out more about Jonathan’s talk at our Winchester History Weekend, ‘The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War’, here.

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