Dear Members and Friends,
I must start this newsletter by extending my thanks to Chris Mitchinson for his decade long stint as chair which is coming to an end this summer. I am sure that you will agree that he has been an excellent chair and has continued to discover new and engaging lecturers, even during the challenging last couple of years.
It is a somewhat daunting prospect to be stepping into his shoes. As chair elect, I soon discovered how much effort goes into putting together each year’s programme. Academics are probably busier than ever and I have contacted enough speakers to put together three years of lectures! I hope that the end result will prove a popular series.
We start on Tuesday 20 September with Giles Milton on the topic of his book Checkmate in Berlin. Mr. Milton is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a renowned author who specialises in narrative history. The Times described Milton as being able to “take an event from history and make it come alive”. His lecture will tell the story of the epic first clash of the Cold War and how it shaped the modern world.
Professor Penelope Corfield is President of the International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, as well as Emeritus Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. Following the publication of her wide-ranging new book, The Georgians, earlier this year, she will visit us on Tuesday 18 October and address The New Aristocracy of Talent in Eighteenth-Century Britain – and What it Meant.
The following month we will host Julian Pooley, who is Public Services and Engagement Manager at Surrey History Centre as well as Visiting Fellow at the University of Leicester. On Tuesday 15 November, Julian will deliver a lecture entitled The Gentleman’s Magazine: A Panorama of Georgian England, which will be richly embellished by his research into the period in Surrey and beyond.
Our last lecture of the year will see Professor David Stevenson from the London School of Economics discuss The Marshall Plan after Seventy-Five Years. His books on various aspects of twentieth century history have been widely acclaimed and Professor Stevenson has been one of our favourite speakers for many years. This lecture, on Tuesday 6 December, will be on Zoom as Professor Stevenson is currently unable to travel for family reasons.
We will start 2023 with a visit from Professor Anne Curry, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton. Prof Curry returns to the branch for the first time since 2006 when she compared Agincourt and Bosworth. On this visit she will address English views of Joan of Arc from the 15th to 21st centuries on Tuesday 17 January. Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society and formerly President of the Historical Association (2006-09), Professor Curry is such an authority on Joan of Arc that she appears as a hologram at the Historial Jeanne d’Arc at Rouen!
Next, we turn to a subject that has been somewhat neglected in previous programmes: twentieth century Spain. Dr David Brydan from King’s College London is our speaker on Tuesday 21 February, when he will discuss Uncivil Peace: Politics, Repression and Memory in Spain since 1939. Dr Brydan is a member of the Centre for the Study of Internationalism as well as a Reviews Editor for Contemporary European History.
On Tuesday 21 March, Dr Eleanor Parker of Brasenose College, Oxford, will deliver a lecture on the subject of her recent book, Conquered: Last Children of Anglo-Saxon England. Dr Parker will take a novel angle on a well-covered period by focusing on the lives of children whose lives were turned upside down by the extraordinary events of 1066. Dr Parker’s book has been widely praised, and she also writes a prize-winning online blog about medieval literature.
Another popular former speaker, Dr Robert Saunders, returns on Tuesday 25 April. Having previously spoken to us about Chartism – when he unforgettably broke into song – and Margaret Thatcher, on this visit he will address “The scum gathers when the nation boils”: Sir Robert Peel, the Corn Laws and the Crisis of Conservatism. Dr Saunders is Reader in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London, and is currently researching a new history of democracy in Britain.
The Tudors are always a popular subject with branch members and school visitors alike, and Professor Paulina Kewes (Jesus College, Oxford) will present a fresh perspective on the period on Tuesday 16 May. Her lecture Contesting the Royal Succession in Mid-Tudor England will feature her current research into the reigns of Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. Professor Kewes is Chair of the Joint School of History and English at Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
The 2022/23 programme will conclude on Tuesday 13 June with Dr Daniel Beer considering The Assassination of Alexander II. Based at Royal Holloway, University of London, Dr Beer is the author of two ground-breaking books on Imperial Russia and has a particular interest in crime and punishment. More recently Dr Beer has had a series of articles published in the British and American press about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We hope to persuade honorary branch member Professor Nigel Saul to restart his excellent series of historical walks next summer. Details for any walks or visits will be shared when they are confirmed.
The committee is very keen to hear from members who would be interested in joining the committee or helping out in other ways. The committee were determined to keep the branch active for the past couple of years despite the difficult circumstances but we are very reliant on a small number of active volunteers who set-up the programme, handle publicity and manage the practicalities of putting on lectures. Likewise, we would be thrilled to hear from anyone with ideas for lectures or branch development. With some long-standing committee members having stood down or no longer able to participate to the same extent, we urgently require new volunteers to step forward with the skills or time that we need to maintain the strength and success of the branch. Contribute as much or as little as you can – our needs range from people who can be relied upon to arrive early each month to put out the chairs, to the IT savvy to produce our programmes and improve our social media profile.
Finally, the committee have made the difficult decision to propose an increase in member’s subscription fees and visitor charges for the 2022/23 season. We think £15 for ten lecturers remains remarkably good value. The fee charged to visitors will rise to £5 accordingly. These increases are regrettable but we have been losing money over the past couple of years, with the cost of the hall rental rising significantly, and we feel it is important to keep the branch on a sound financial footing. Further details about renewing your membership will follow next week.