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August 01 2017

09:00

A tormented Tudor queen's treasonous 'love letter'

In this episode, Neil Johnston and Christopher Day discuss a letter written by Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, to Thomas Culpeper, a groom of the King's Privy chamber. The document was part of a body of evidence collected against Catherine and Culpeper that ultimately led to their execution. It is now preserved at The National Archives.

Here Neil Johnston explains how it is crucial to examine this letter in the context of Catherine's sexual past in order to understand how the queen accused of living "an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous, vicious life" was effectively blackmailed into a path of action that led to her untimely death.

July 18 2017

09:00

Sexuality under scrutiny in 1930s Soho

In 1934, homosexual acts between men – in public and in private – were illegal in the UK. Police surveilled a number of social spaces across London suspected of permitting what the state then considered to be 'immoral activity' and in August conducted a raid on a venue in Soho called the Caravan Club. Possessions such as cosmetics and personal correspondence were confiscated from attendees and later offered as evidence in court.

Vicky Iglikowski, The National Archives' Diverse History Records Specialist, discusses the content and context of a love letter found in the Caravan on that evening, and considers the difficult position it occupies now as both an important piece of LGBT history and a document that wasn't intended for publication.

This podcast was produced as part of a series where archivists talk about the documents they think you should know about. You can view the rest of the series here.

Music:

'Sam, the Old Accordian Man' by the Williams Sisters

'Night Latch Key Blues' by Virginia Liston

July 14 2017

09:00

Oscar Wilde's trial and imprisonment – a short play

This short play explores the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. In 1895 the celebrated author and playwright was found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to two years imprisonment, with hard labour. The words are taken directly from records held by The National Archives, particularly the petition that Wilde made to the Home Secretary seeking early release, and letters written about him to the governor of Reading Gaol.

This play was first performed as part of The National Archives;' Victorian Crime night in October 2016 and was subsequently performed as part of 'Museums Showoff', 'OUTing the Past Festival' and a 'Queer and the State' event. Find out here how we brought Oscar Wilde's words to life.

By Caroline Osborne-James

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Lucy Fletcher
  • Oscar Wilde: Gary Thorpe
  • John Sholto Douglas (Marquess of Queensbury): Kevin Chambers
  • Lily Wilde: Fleur Soper
  • Chaplain: Liz Bryant
  • An Irishwoman: Clarissa Angus
  • More Adey: Jon Ryder-Oliver

July 04 2017

09:00

Bombs, bulls and civilian bravery

In this podcast The National Archives' Principal Military Specialist reveals some of his favourite stories about civilian gallantry from the First and Second World Wars, from the bravery of the youngest recipient of the George medal to a bizarre tale involving a bomb and some table tennis bats.

June 16 2017

09:00

'A Bit of a Scratch', a radio drama about the battle against Venereal Disease during the First World War

'A Bit of a Scratch' explores the first recorded prosecution under the Venereal Diseases Act 1917. The legislation was introduced due to the large numbers, roughly 5%, of UK troops returning from the First World War with venereal diseases and to ensure that treatment was undertaken by qualified medical professionals. The last century has seen remarkable developments in sexual health, however with rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections and the emergence of antimicrobial resistant disease, the provision of high quality sexual health services are more important than ever.

This podcast was produced jointly with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). More information on the issues contained within this podcast can be found on the BASHH website and @BASHH_UK.

By: Debbie Manship

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Stephen McGann
  • Billy: Louis Cardona
  • Edie: Lowri Amies
  • Chemist: David Jarvis
  • Doctor: Peter Wickham
  • All other parts were played by members of the cast.
  • Composer: Chris Madin
  • Studio Engineer: Holly Parris
  • Director: Paul Dawson

Produced by Role Call and iD Audio in association with M & F Health Communications"The British Army's fight against Venereal Disease in the 'Heroic Age of Prostitution'" by Richard Marshall is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

June 15 2017

09:00

Medieval treason and magic

In this podcast, two of our records specialists tell us about treason and necromancy in The National Archives' medieval records.

The first part, narrated by Paul Dryburgh, tells the story of a band of men from Coventry who planned to kill King Edward II and his supporters, the Despencers, with a plot that involved wax effigies and pins. In the second part, Sean Cunningham discusses one of the earliest English language statements in legal history; a tale involving a mole catcher and a magical dismembered hand.

May 18 2017

09:00

'Dadland': the father who was also an undercover guerrilla agent

Keggie Carew discusses her book 'Dadland', a story about a madcap English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, and dementia. The novel centres upon her father Tom Carew, an enigmatic, unorthodox character, who was an undercover guerrilla agent during the Second World War.

'Dadland' is the winner of the Costa Biography Award 2016 and a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

April 25 2017

00:03

Black British politics and the anti-apartheid struggle

In 1948, from the introduction of apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination galvanized the international community into protest. British people and black communities in particular attempted to lead the global opposition against apartheid.

Historian Dr Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London) will discuss aspects of the documents she looked at while writing her book 'The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Apartheid Struggle' (2015).

Please note, due to a technical error this recording ended a few minutes prior to the end of the talk.

April 18 2017

09:00

From the Somme to Arras

Andrew Lock discusses the progress made by the British Expeditionary Forces between the battles of the Somme (1916) and Arras (1917). Although lessons were learned during the Somme campaign, Arras clearly exposed command and preparation deficiencies, leading to setbacks and the highest casualty rate of any British offensive in the war.

March 29 2017

09:00

Bureau-cats: A short history of Whitehall's official felines

Public interest in the cats of Whitehall began long before Larry, Palmerston and Gladstone graced our front pages and Twitter feeds.

In this podcast, records specialist Christopher Day reveals his favourite anecdotes from the 'Home Office Cat' files, including the story behind the naming of Nelson, Winston Churchill's favourite cat; the controversy surrounding the behaviour of Peta, the first 'Chief Mouser' gifted to the UK government; and the verses exchanged between staff regarding the cats' upkeep.

March 06 2017

09:00

Tracy Borman on 'The Private Lives of the Tudors'

Tracy Borman reveals how the Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers, even in their most private moments. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed.

Dr Tracy Borman is a historian, author and joint Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces. Her books include the highly acclaimed 'Elizabeth's Women: the Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen'; 'Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror'; and 'Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction'. Her latest book is 'The Private Lives of the Tudors', published by Hodder & Stoughton.

February 20 2017

15:00

Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: Hilary McCollum on 'Sapphic Suffragettes'

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, Hilary McCollum discusses her research into the roles lesbian women played in the suffragette movement.

15:00

Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: Emma Vickers on trans veterans of the British Armed Forces

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, Emma Vickers discusses the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces.

15:00

Talks from the National LGBT History Festival: E-J Scott on collecting for the Museum of Transology

On the 11 February 2017, The National Archives hosted a range of talks for 'OUTing the Past: the National LGBT History Festival' on topics including the role of lesbians in the fight for Votes for Women, the lives of trans veterans of the British Armed Forces and collecting trans narratives.

In this talk recorded from the festival, curator E-J Scott discusses the process of collecting trans artefacts for the Museum of Transology. The exhibition is on display at Fashion Space Gallery in London until 22 April 2017.

January 19 2017

15:00

Archive Notes: Prosthetics and the First World War

The first episode of a Q&A series in which we talk to researchers about the records and stories they've uncovered at The National Archives.

In 'Prosthetics and the First World War', our First World War diverse histories researcher Louise Bell discusses the impact of the war on disability history through our records: from designs for lighter, more flexible prosthetics to new rehabilitation methods trialled by specialist hospitals.

December 09 2016

16:02

The Eternal systemd Discussion and Implications for System Administration

Recently we had a power outage at one of our sites. A construction site brought down a power line, and the subsequent efforts to repair the damage took the power company longer than the UPS could handle. So all systems shut down cleanly. After the power was back most servers restarted automatically. Two servers were missing. A manual inspection revealed that they hung still in the init phase. According to the logs on the screen systemd was trying to unlock the encrypted harddrives (with a key stored on an external storage media, accessible by the init system). The system were rebooted in Debian 8 System V init mode, and they started immediately. No hangs, no errors, nothing. All systems go, as it should be.

Out of frustration this tweet went out to the world. Unsurprisingly comments about the init system religious war came as reply.

We did not report the error on the servers to the developers for a simple reason. systemd is advertised as a drop in replacement for System V init scripts. It clearly anything but a drop in replacement. If you have to do a migration from System V to systemd, then it is not a drop in replacement. Furthermore everything necessary to get these two servers up and running is stored in their /etc/crypttab and /etc/fstab. It is not really hard to unlock a LUKS-encrypted partition. Even a shell script can do this.

So to cut the bashing short, here is the message: If you want to see your software deployed, do not anger the users (or the sysadmins) using it. We have ditched a lot of software applications, because of misguided development processes. We will replace Debian with Devuan as a lesson from this episode. We already replaced a lot of window managers, because of the ever increasing feature creep, cruft, and bloat. Do not go this way when developing software. Focus!

November 29 2016

15:00

The life and death of King John

King John's acts of misgovernment prompted his barons to demand reform, setting the kingdom on the road to civil war and leading to John's grant of Magna Carta. Why was he seen as such a terrible king and how did Magna Carta come about?

Professor David Carpenter, Professor Stephen Church and Dr Marc Morris discuss the life and reign of King John, 800 years after his death in October 1216.

November 24 2016

15:00

Defeating the Zeppelins

For almost two years during the First World War, German airships roamed over the British countryside, bombing towns and villages without fear of a significant response from the aircraft assigned to defend the country. But all that changed in the late summer of 1916 when a new weapon was introduced, one that spelt the end of the Zeppelin menace.

Ian Castle is the author of two books and a website detailing Germany's air campaign against Britain during the First World War (www.IanCastleZeppelin.co.uk).

November 16 2016

15:00

The Battle of Agincourt

In 1415, King Henry V led an army to victory on the field of Agincourt. In this talk, which commemorated the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Professor Anne Curry discusses the events leading up to the conquest, and the myths surrounding it that have developed over the centuries.

October 19 2016

15:00

Jonathan Dimbleby on 'The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War'

In this talk, broadcaster and acclaimed author Jonathan Dimbleby shows how Britain's success in the Battle of the Atlantic led to the allied victory in 1945. Through extraordinary personal diaries and letters written by both sailors and politicians, he will tell the epic story of how the allies won the war.

Jonathan Dimbleby's illustrious career in broadcasting has spanned nearly five decades. He has presented television programmes on both the BBC and ITV, and has written numerous critically-acclaimed non-fiction history books.

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