Ten things to do in . . . October

Get out and about this month with our guide to the very best historical attractions

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1: Immerse yourself in a wealth of ideas

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The University of Cambridge reached the grand old age of 800 this year and as part of the celebrations it is hosting a Festival of Ideas in October. Over the course of 12 days there will be more than 150 events taking place exploring the big ideas in history, literature, art and various other fields. The strong history line-up is headed by David Starkey, and regular BBC History Magazine contributor Paul Cartledge will also be appearing.

Festival: Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Cambridge
21 October–1 November
Phone: 01223 766766
www.heritageopendays.org.uk

2: See dramatic images of Antarctica

Two of the most fateful voyages in the history of polar exploration – Scott’s attempt on the South Pole and Shackleton’s expedition on the doomed Endurance – are vividly recalled in this photographic exhibition. The pictures were taken by Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, who accompanied Scott and Shackleton respectively on their journeys. They reveal the difficulties of the expeditions as well as highlighting the local fauna and stunning vistas of the Antarctic.

Exhibition: Heart of the Great Alone
The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
2 October–11 April 2010
Phone: 0131 556 5100
www.royalcollection.org.uk

3: Be dazzled by India’s royal riches

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s major autumn exhibition introduces visitors to the splendours of India’s Maharajahs (literally ‘great kings’). It explores their changing roles and lifestyles from the mid-18th century until the end of the British Raj in 1947. On show are 250 pieces from India’s royal collections including thrones, gem-encrusted weapons and saris from French couture houses.

Exhibition: Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
10 October–17 January 2010
Phone: 020 7942 2000
www.vam.ac.uk

4: Meet the unknown explorers

While the great historic explorers are regularly exalted, those who helped them on their travels are rarely mentioned. A new exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society redresses this by highlighting the roles of intermediaries and indigenous assistants without whom many feats of exploration would have been impossible.

Exhibition: Hidden Histories of Exploration
Royal Geographical Society, London
15 October–10 December
Phone: 020 7591 3000
www.rgs.org/hiddenhistories

5: Delve into suburban history

One of the results of the growth of public transport over the past century has been the development of suburbs. A new exhibition at London Transport Museum examines the cultural history of suburbs and suburbia, looking at the designs that predominated and the lifestyles that flourished.

Event: Suburbia
London Transport Museum, London
15 October–31 March 2010
Phone: 020 7565 7299
www.ltmuseum.co.uk

6: Mingle with Britain’s leading history writers

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is one of the premier events of its type. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the line-up once again boasts heavyweight historians among its stellar cast of writers and celebrities. Among 2009’s speakers are Andrew Roberts, Simon Schama, Max Hastings, Dan Snow, Antonia Fraser and Richard Holmes. A similar event, the Henley Literary Festival, is also taking place this month. Visit www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk for more details of that.

Festival: The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham
9–18 October
Phone: 0844 576 8970
www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature

7: Hear words of heritage wisdom

English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley has just been appointed Gresham College’s visiting professor of the built environment. In that capacity he will be delivering a series of free public lectures about the country’s architectural heritage, beginning this month. His opening talk will tackle the rise of heritage protection and how it has informed our attitudes to history.

Lecture series: Simon Thurley
Gresham College, London
22 October–11 March 2010
Phone: 020 7831 0575
www.gresham.ac.uk

8: Consider the army’s recent past

Conflicts in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, the Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq come under the spotlight in the new Conflict of Interest exhibition at the National Army Museum. The displays chart the history of the British armed forces over the past 30 years, offering a rounded picture of life in the army during these times.

Permanent Exhibition: Conflicts of Interest
National Army Museum, London
Phone: 020 7730 0717
www.nam.ac.uk

9: Discover the talents of female artists

Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery has long championed the work of female artists. Now a new exhibition showcases some of the finest works by women from its own collections. Ranging from the 16th century until the present, the exhibition includes pieces from all over Europe and in several different forms including paintings, textiles, ceramics and sculpture.

Exhibition: The Rise of Women Artists
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
23 October–14 March
Phone: 0151 478 4199
www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

10: Encounter Spain’s images of faith

During the Spanish Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries, the country’s artists produced a wealth of religious imagery that was designed to be as realistic as possible. The National Gallery has assembled a collection of paintings and painted sculptures that reveal the intensity of the country’s religious art and the skill of practitioners such as Velasquez and Francisco de Zurbaran.

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Conference: The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting & Culture 1600–1700
The National Gallery, London
21 October–24 January 2010
Phone: 020 7747 2885
www.nationalgallery.org.uk