Past Programmes

A number of our talks can be found on our YouTube channel here

2022- 23 programme here

2021-22 programme here

2020-21 programme

Monday 28 September (Zoom Webinar, 7.30pm)

Annual General Meeting followed at 8.15 by James Hodsdon (Secretary, Victoria County History Society)The Victoria County History in Gloucestershire: Progress and prospects

In 2010, 50 years of public funding of the VCH project in Gloucestershire came to an abrupt end. A charitable trust now continues the work, under very different conditions. James Hodsdon reports on a decade of progress (three books published, three more in preparation), and touches on the challenges and opportunities.

Wednesday 7 October 2020 (University of Gloucestershire talk in association with the HA)

Black History Month event – Dr Yvonne Battle-Felton (Lecturer in Creative Writing and Creative Industries, Sheffield Hallam University)
Writing as Advocacy: Why I Write with Yvonne Battle-Felton

Yvonne Battle-Felton is the author of Remembered, an historical novel set in Philadelphia in 1910. It tells the story of Spring, a formerly enslaved woman forced into a reckoning with her past in order to help her dying son. The novel was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. She is also Lecturer in Creative Writing and Creative Industries at Sheffield Hallam University. She joins a long list of impressive speakers who have come to the University for Black History Month in recent years, including Gary Younge, Bonnie Greer, David Olusoga, Louisa Adjoa Parker and Seyi Rhodes.

Monday 19 October (Zoom Webinar, 7.30pm)

Black History Month event – Dr Melissa Bennett (National Trust/Greater London Authority, PhD University of Warwick)

Picturing the West India Regiment 1860-1914

In this talk I will discuss my work to draw to together the disparate photographic archive of the West India Regiments. Scattered across the Atlantic in public and private collections, photographs of the men who formed the first ‘official’ British Army regiment made up of men of African descent represent the men in contradictory ways. The men were both racialised as “others” and accepted as a formal part of the apparatus of the British Empire. At a time when “scientific” proof was being gathered to cement ideas about race, the men were certainly identified as black, and were differentiated from the white personnel of the British Army in a number of ways. However, they were not subjected to the same racialisation as the black civilians that they shared their homelands with. In fact, they were often depicted in ways that undermined the very stereotypes so commonly assigned to their peers. I’ll discuss how the Regiments’ archives can be used to learn about the characteristics of the British Empire between the mid-19th and early 20th century and some of the difficult histories that their archive intersects with.

Monday 23 November (Zoom Webinar, 7.30pm)

Jo Loosemore (Curator at The Box, Plymouth’s new History Centre)

Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy

Legacy – an epic journey of survival, imagination and 400 years of America. With objects, images and ideas from museums, libraries and archives across the UK, US and The Netherlands, find out how The Box, Plymouth is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. Curator Jo Loosemore will reveal the partnerships changing perceptions of the ship, its passengers and an Atlantic journey made 400 years ago.

Monday 7 December (Zoom Webinar, 7.30pm)

Ruth Waycott (Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty)

William Gilpin and “The Picturesque Wye Tour”

Drawing on the wealth of historical archive material available from Monmouthshire Museums Service this talk will focus on ‘The Picturesque Wye Tour’.  It was William Gilpin’s book, Observations on the River Wye and several parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the summer of 1770, that opened the world’s eyes to the beauty of the Wye Valley.  Observations started a trend. Taking the Wye Tour became the height of  fashion in the period 1780 – 1830. Thousands came to ‘do the Wye Tour’, to enjoy specific viewpoints, visit romantic ruins like Goodrich Castle and Tintern Abbey and to wine and dine at the sites prescribed by Gilpin. 

It can be argued that the Wye Valley was the birthplace of British tourism and that the package holiday started with Gilpin. Painters, poets, writers and diarists recorded their own Wye Tours in amazing paintings, poetry and prose. Using paintings, sketches and diaries from the collections of Chepstow Museum, Ruth will take you on ‘the Wye Tour’ downstream from Ross on Wye to Chepstow, revealing much of the history of the Valley during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Chepstow Museum collected Wye Tour artworks as part of the HLF Collecting Cultures programme and these paintings and diaries provide a wealth of material which sheds light on the navigation of the Wye and the lives of people living along the river – as well as the Wye Tourists themselves.

Monday 18 January (Zoom webinar, 7.30pm)

Susan Slater (Retired teacher)

The Silk Road – Travel, Trade and Ideas

Starting with the Geography of Eurasia, we look at the developments Economic, Cultural and Political that led to the success of the Silk Road over some 700 years; we then look at its withering and demise, and the background to the re-emergence from obscurity of the region some 150 years ago, leading to the situation today.

Monday 22 February (Zoom webinar, 7.30pm)

Dr Tim Brain

The History of Policing in England and Wales

Dr Tim Brain, the chief constable of Gloucestershire from 2001-2010 and a noted police historian, will give talk on the History of Policing in England and wales, from its very beginnings in Anglo-Saxon England until the present day, charting its transformation from a voluntary act of community duty to a 21st century professional service. Along the way he he will review some of the seminal and controversial events in the service’s evolution.

Monday 22 March (Zoom webinar, 7.30pm)

Women’s History Month – Maggie Andrews (Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Worcester)

Nationalising Hundreds of Thousands of Women: Evacuation in the Second World War

Evacuees, standing on stations with gas masks and cardboard suitcases have become one of the iconic images of the Second World War. This talk explore the impact of evacuation on women whose stories are rarely heard; the mothers and the foster mothers, teachers and social workers, volunteers and members of women’s organisations whose everyday lives were turned upside down by wartime evacuation.

Monday 19 April (Zoom webinar, 7.30pm)

Dr Gordon McKelvie – University of Winchester

The Battle of Tewkesbury: It’s Place in Medieval England’s Past

This year marks the 550th anniversary of the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury. The battle was the culmination of around two decades of intermittent political instability and effectively ended the Lancastrian dynasty. This talk discusses what should be regarded as one of the most important battle of medieval England, explaining why the battle happened and its place in England’s medieval past.

Monday 10 May (Zoom webinar, 7.30pm)

Dr. Arezou Azad (Senior Research Fellow, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford)

The Barmakids: Islam, Multiculturalism and Power seen through the story of the most celebrated and enigmatic families in early Islam

Over the centuries in the Islamic world, the Barmakids have featured in many books and stories for all ages. In these accounts, they feature as “Persian” superheroes who brought civilisation and culture to the Arab caliphal courts of Damascus and Baghdad, until the caliphs brutally extinguished them in the early 800s AD for reasons that still remain shrouded in mystery. The Barmakids pervade popular western culture, too, even if little of their real history (or even family name) remains known today. One example is the conniving vizier “Jafar” in Disney’s rendering of the story of Aladdin from the Arabian Nights. This Jafar is, in fact, the son of the most powerful Barmakid; Yahya Barmaki. 

The Barmakids are fascinating at another level, too: their ancestors managed one of the richest and most powerful Buddhist temples, monasteries and estates the late antique world had known, in the city of Balkh (northern Afghanistan). How could this family, of all families, rise to such heights in the caliphal administration, and why has their legacy been so enduring? What can we learn about Islamisation and the relationship between people of different faiths in the eastern Islamic lands? These questions will guide Dr Azad’s exploration on the Barmakids, and they serve as useful comparanda when thinking about Islamisation in today’s world.

The 2019-20 programme

Monday 16 September (Cheltenham)

Annual General Meeting, followed at 8.15 by

Robert Sutton, Branch Secretary

Glimpses from the Archives: The History of our Historical Association Branch

Monday 7 October (Cheltenham)

Black History Month event

Dr Hannah-Rose Murray (University of Edinburgh)

‘It is Time for Slaves to Speak’: African-American Abolitionism in the British Isles,


Dr Murray’s research focuses on African American transatlantic journeys to Britain between the 1830s and the 1890s. She has created a website ( dedicated to their experiences and has mapped their speaking locations across Britain, showing how Black men and women travelled far and wide, from capital cities to small fishing villages, to raise awareness of American slavery.

Throughout the nineteenth century, formerly enslaved African Americans visited the British Isles to lecture against U.S. slavery, racism and lynching. They had an extraordinary impact on the British and Irish public, revealing that we walk past sites with a rich history of black activism on a daily basis. Their tireless activism often created and sustained antislavery momentum across the Atlantic, and their international missions inspired further action as well as apoplectic rage in the United States. Dr Murray’s talk will highlight some key and interesting figures such as Frederick Douglass, Moses Roper and Ellen Craft, and will explore the controversies they became embroiled in on British soil.

Monday 21 October (Gloucester)

Black History Month event

Garry Stewart (Director, ‘Recognize Black Heritage and Culture’ Project, Birmingham)

Stories of Omission: The Conflict and Experiences of Black Soldiers in the

First World War

Monday 18 November (Cheltenham)

Roisin Inglesby (William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow)

‘A New Guild of Craftsmen’: William Morris and the Bauhaus

At first glance, the dense floral patterns of William Morris (1834-96) share little in common with the sleek machine-driven aesthetic of the Bauhaus, the German school of design which opened in Weimar in 1919 and celebrates its centenary this year. Yes despite the many differences between the two groups, the Bauhaus was, from its conception, deeply indebted to the ideals of the English Arts and Crafts movement.

This talk, drawing on research for the exhibition ‘Pioneers: William Morris and the Bauhaus’, on display at the William Morris Gallery in London (19th October 2019—26th January 2020), focuses on craftsmanship, an often overlooked aspect of the Bauhaus. It asks how the Arts and Crafts principles of simplicity, unity, unity, and community were reinvented at the Bauhaus and investigates Morris’s influence on the Bauhaus mission to design a better world.

Monday 9 December (Cheltenham)

Dr Steph Mastoris (National Museum of Wales)

The History of the Christmas Card

Dr Pastoris’s illustrated lecture considers the history and development of the Christmas card, and how the imagery on the cards illustrates the changing nature of some of the customs associated with Christmas.

Monday 13 January (Cheltenham)

Professor John Hughes (University of Gloucestershire)

Voicing Change: Bob Dylan in the 1960s

Monday 24 February (Gloucester)

Professor Barbara Yorke (University of Winchester)

King Alfred and the Vikings

CANCELLED – Monday 23 March (Cheltenham)

Dr Johannes Lotze (University of Birmingham)

Chinngis Khan and the Mongols, c. 1200-1350: From Pastoral Nomads to

Universal Emperors

CANCELLED – Monday 20 April (Gloucester)

Dr Tim Mason (University of Portsmouth)

The History of the Plague

Plague! The very word is inclined to strike fear into the heart, but what is it, where did it come from and is it still about? This talk will cover the history of plague from the Bronze Age, through the mass deaths of medieval times to the atrocities of its use in germ warfare in the twentieth century. The story encompasses everything from the science and history through to morality.

CANCELLED – Monday 18 May (Cheltenham)

Dr Gillian Spraggs (author and lecturer)

‘The Highwaymen’s Lawsuit’: Criminal Networks in London between 1720 and 1735

The 2018-19 programme 

Monday 17 September Park Campus, Cheltenham

Branch AGM – followed at 8.15 pm by

Christian O’Connell, University of Gloucestershire

1968, the “Summer of Love”

Friday 19 OctoberOxstalls Campus,Gloucester

Dr Charles Gore, SOAS, University of London

The Benin Empire: art and history Black History Month event

The Kingdom of Benin was a pre-colonial state in what is now southern Nigeria. Its capital was Edo. It has been described as ‘one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West Africa, dating perhaps to the eleventh century CE’. By the 15th century, it had expanded into a thriving city-state. The kingdom’s power eventually extended over much of what is now mid-western Nigeria, and a rural network of earthen walls at least 4,000 miles long was developed; it has been estimated that it would have taken 150 million man-hours to build, over hundreds of years. The kingdom has become internationally known for the quality of its art, notably sculptures – most famously in bronze and brass, but also in other materials including wood, ceramic and ivory. Dr Gore has carried out extensive research in southern Nigeria for 20 years at Benin City in Edo state, working with practitioners of the local indigenous religion and with brasscasters; and also carried out research in Anambra and Ondo states; and in the Niger delta.

Tuesday 20 November Park Campus, Cheltenham

Paula Kitching, Historical Association

The RAF and the Berlin Airlift 1948-49

Specially produced video and speaker from the Historical Association’s project marking the RAF’s centenary nationally.

Monday 3 December Park Campus, Cheltenham

Tony Comer, GCHQ historian

The History of GCHQ and How It Came to Cheltenham

Tony Comer has worked at GCHQ for thirty-four years. He worked in a variety of operational posts, most of which involved support to UK and allied military forces. He became GCHQ’s Departmental Historian in 2009. As GCHQ prepares to recognise a hundred years since its creation, a number of activities are taking place including the publication of a book to mark the anniversary next year. On the announcement of the publishing contract Tony said: ‘GCHQ has kept Britain safe for 100 years, and will keep doing so into the future. Our centenary is a unique moment to commemorate our past, explain more about what we do, and inspire a new generation by celebrating the people who have made GCHQ such a ground-breaking organisation for the last century and continue to do so into the next.’ The talk was of personal relevance to many people in the branch’s area, and provide an exciting opportunity to learn about this important organisation.

Monday 14 January Oxstalls Campus, Gloucester

Malcolm Mclean, University of Gloucestershire

Apartheid and Sport

The formalisation in 1948 of apartheid as a system of government led to increasing concerns about South Africa’s place on the world stage. Although some international sports organisations broke with apartheid institutions in the mid-1950s, an organised international boycott campaign did not begin until 1959 and it was not until the early 1970s that major international sports organisations began to break with the apartheid regime. Civil society organisations were ahead of sports organisations, resulting in large scale and spirited protests culminating in the anti-apartheid protests that took New Zealand to the brink of martial law in 1981. Yet the unseemly haste with which South Africa was readmitted to international sport in the early 1990s suggests that the will of the international federations was weak. This talk traced the rise and ending of the sports boycott, considered its distinctive features and posed the question of whether the rush to rehabilitation can be seen as a lost opportunity in the democratisation of South African sport.

Wednesday 13 February Francis Close Hall, Cheltenham

Dr Justin Bengry, Goldsmiths, University of London

‘Doing It in Public’: Queer history beyond the Academy

History surrounds us. Across mass media, digital spaces, and the built environment, public history is a key site for making history accessible to the widest audience. Queer History is no different. Drawing on Dr Bengry’s experiences of working on major queer public history projects, including Historic England’s Pride of Place and Channel 4’s Convicted for Love, this talk explored first-hand the challenges and opportunities of doing queer public history. The speaker says, ‘Our efforts as public historians are only ever partly about the past. They hold incredible resonance and importance in the present by highlighting long histories of gender and sexual diversity, struggle, and community building. Queer public history is important and it is urgent.’

Monday 18 March Park Campus, Cheltenham

Dr Sarah Evans, Royal Geographical Society

Hidden Histories of Women and Exploration Women’s History Month event

The talk drew upon the speaker’s research on the Collections of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), which mapped out women’s participation in RGS-supported expeditions between 1913 and 1970. As well as charting the history of that participation, and drawing on the examples of a number of intrepid women from across the period, the talk also focussed on how to piece together archival traces to reconstruct the forgotten histories of women’s expeditionary work.

Monday 15 April Park Campus, Cheltenham

Dr Iain Robertson, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Culloden, Clearances and Crofting: Highland history across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

There is no doubt that the impact and legacy of World War One in the Scottish Highlands was profound. But not every consequence was negative. 2019 marks the centenary of the passing of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act. This was one of the most important pieces of Highland legislation, having a hugely positive impact on lives and landscape. It would not have come into being if it were not for the war. This talk will tell the otherwise less than positive story behind the legislation. Beginning with the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746, this is a story of total and catastrophic change to the Gaelic way of life. It is a story of forced emigration and relocation. Of the creation of new agricultural practices, and of the imposition of a part-agricultural and part-industrial way of life in which people lived on the land but not wholly from it. But it is also a story of resistance, and of attempts to reassert an older culture. Ultimately, it was suggested, the 1919 Act was a result of that struggle, and with the 2003 and 2016 Land Reform Acts the story has come full circle.

Monday 13 May Oxstalls Campus, Gloucester

Dr Neil Wynn

Britain’s Forgotten Black Divas: African American Female Performers in Britain from Jazz Age to Post-war

This talk looked at the careers of three African American women entertainers who had considerable success in Britain in the period from the 1920s, the Jazz Age, through to the war and postwar years, but who largely ‘disappeared’ from popular memory and from most histories of jazz. Their stories of incorporation and inclusion not only tell us  a great deal about British cultural and racial attitudes, but also point to the growth of a transatlantic culture that pre-date the 1950s and 1960s boom in popular music.

The 2017-18 programme

All meetings on Monday evenings at 7.30, except where otherwise stated.

18 September 2017 (Cheltenham) 8.15
Maskelyne and Cooke: Cheltenham’s men of mystery
Sue Rowbotham, author and lecturer
– preceded by the branch AGM at 7.30, for members only

2 October 2017 (Cheltenham)
19th century race and racism in the American South
(Black History Month talk)
Dr Lydia Plath
Warwick University

26 October 2017* THURSDAY (Gloucester)
Shirley Chisholm
(Black History Month talk)
Peaches Golding, Lord Lieutenant of Bristol

13 November 2017 (Cheltenham)
Guernica 80 years on: civil war, image, and Public history
Dr Michael Richards
University of the West of England

11 December 2017 (Cheltenham)
The history of the Christmas card
Dr Steph Mastoris
National Museum of Wales

15 January 2018 (Gloucester)
Aethelflead, Queen of Mercia
Professor Charles Insley
University of Manchester

12 February 2018 (Gloucester)
Parliament and the suffragettes
Dr Mari Takayanagi
Senior Archivist, Parliamentary Archives

19 March 2018 7.00 PM (Cheltenham)
Writing the history of our own times
Peter Hennessy (Lord Hennessey of Nympsfield)
Queen Mary University of London

16 April 2018 (Cheltenham)
Royalist print culture and Civil War
memories after the Restoration
Dr Erin Peters
University of Gloucestershire

The 2015-16 programme

All meetings were at the Teaching Block, University of Gloucestershire, unless otherwise stated.


Monday 21 September, 8.15
The History of Allotments

John Loosley

preceded at 7.30 by our ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (members only)

Monday 5 October
The Indian Ocean Slave Trade
A talk for Black History Month
Professor Gwyn Campbell
McGill University, Montreal

Monday 19 October   
Marcus Garvey: Foolish Fanatic or a Great Leader of the Black Masses?
A talk for Black History Month
Dr Neil Wynn
Emeritus Professor, University of Gloucestershire

* University of Gloucestershire Oxstalls Campus, Lecture Theatre LC003

Monday 2 November
Gallipoli: the Bravest of Follies
Robert Fleming
National Army Museum

Monday 16 November
Agincourt 1415-2015: The Legacy of the Battle
Professor Anne Curry
University of Southampton

Monday 14 December
The History of Pantomime
Professor Jim Davis
University of Warwick


Monday 18 January
100 Years of Denial – the Armenian Genocide
Dr James Derounian
University of Gloucestershire

Monday 15 February
Henry III
Professor David Carpenter
King’s College, University of London

Monday 7 March
Family, Community and Loyalty in Confederate South Carolina
Dr Patrick Doyle
Royal Holloway College, University of London

Monday 25 April
Goths and Romans in Theodoric the Great’s Europe
Professor Edward James
Lately of University College, Dublin

The 2014-15 programme

Except where otherwise stated, all meetings started at 7.30 pm, at the Teaching Block, University of Gloucestershire, Park Campus, Cheltenham.


Monday 22 September 
followed by a talk by our committee member Nicholas Watkis: 
The origins of air photographic intelligence in the First World War 

Monday 13 October GLOUCESTER*  
Africans in Tudor and Stuart Britain 
A talk for Black History Month 

Dr Miranda Kaufman, University of Oxford   

*This meeting was held at the Friends Meeting House, Greyfriars, Gloucester GL1 1TS

Monday 3 November 
Oliver Cromwell and his Family  

John Hunt, Cromwell Association
Monday 17 November  
The pilgrim route to Compostela 
Dr Steven Blake, historian and lecturer

Monday 8 December, 7.00
Gloucestershire Carols and Christmas Customs
Words and music
Paul Burgess, researcher and folksinger

The meeting was followed by a dinner for members at 8.30.


Monday 19 January 
The Lion of the North 
Marshal Blucher, Napoleon’s most determined enemy 
Carole Divall, writer, lecturer and researcher on the French Revolutionary
and Napoleonic eras 

Monday 16 February 
Gloucester, the All Golds and the path not taken 

A new look at the social history of rugby in the South West 
Professor Tony Collins, International Centre for Sports History and Culture,
De Montfort University

Monday 9 March 
Gladstone and the Coming of Democracy* 

Dr Laurence Goldman, St Peter’s College, Oxford  

* Rescheduled from March 2014

Wednesday 15 April  
Magna Carta and English history   
Professor Nigel Saul, Royal Holloway College