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October 26 2014


October 24 2014


Writer of the month: Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory in conversation with Caroline Kimbell, discussing how she uses original records and introducing her new novel, The King’s Curse.

Philippa Gregory was already an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a TV drama, and a film. Six novels later, she looks at the family that preceded the Tudors: the Plantagenets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds. Find out more about Philippa Gregory’s work.

This podcast was recorded live as part of the Writer of the month series, which broadens awareness of historical records and their uses for writers. We apologise for any reduction in sound quality.


Security Service file release October 2014

Professor Christopher Andrew, formerly official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', introduces key files from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in October 2014.

October 19 2014


October 17 2014


Maps: their untold stories

Drawn from seven centuries of maps of places around the globe held in The National Archives, Maps: their untold stories offers a fascinating and unusual journey through the world of maps.

Hear from the authors as they explain who made these maps, why they were made and what they tell us about the politics of the time. Mapmakers range from a native American and a Maori priest to Captain Cook and George Washington. Subject matter includes London before the Great Fire, a map of Czechoslovakia that Hitler gave to Neville Chamberlain, beautifully hand-drawn estate maps, battle plans from the First World War and earlier conflicts, and perhaps the earliest depiction of Santa Claus on a map. After the talk the authors will be signing copies of their book at our onsite bookshop.

Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes are specialist map archivists at The National Archives and have many years of experience in advising the public on maps and related records. They have written and spoken about a broad range of map-related topics based on the rich holdings at The National Archives, from the use of maps in sixteenth century law courts to the Second World bomb census survey.

October 10 2014


Big Ideas: Understanding patterns of behaviour for users of public records

When Google launched in 1998, a prime ingredient in their not-so-secret sauce was the question: if a user randomly clicked links where on the web might they end up?

They called the answer PageRank. This involved treating the web as a network rather than a bunch of isolated documents containing keywords. The outcome was a new verb and the near destruction of their competitors. Could repeating and refining 'the Google trick' help cultural bodies with research, collection care or digitisation?

One limitation to overcome is the assumption that all users behave in the same way. Users are individuals within fuzzy communities. So, can we personalise PageRank and treat people more like individuals than averages?

Matthew Pearce, from The National Archives, works on public sector information – in particular, its economics. His research is on the statistics and algorithms needed for personalised predictions.

October 03 2014


From British bobby to Hong Kong copper

This year marks the 170th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Police. This talk traces the history of the organisation through the stories of a few very ordinary British constables from the 1840s up to the First World War. Some sacrificed their careers by standing up for the rights of their colleagues, while others spent a lifetime fostering good relations with the local community. These were the men who helped mould the Force into the highly respected organisation which it became during the 20th century.

Christine Thomas has had a 40 year career with the police in Hong Kong and London, working in the fields of Research and Archival Records Management. She is a member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) and runs her own research service specialising in British expatriates who spent time in Hong Kong.

September 28 2014


September 21 2014


September 19 2014


The naval policy of the Free Church of Scotland

In 1843 the established Church of Scotland suffered a large secession of members who formed the Free Church of Scotland. In the early years of its existence the new church had to overcome a shortage of buildings and clergy, as well as the hostility of many landowners. Their response included the use of a floating church, a floating manse and the building of a yacht dedicated to the task of taking ministers to remote islands. The lecture looks at this curious episode in Scottish history and how and why the church evolved a 'naval policy'.

Alex Ritchie is the Business Archives Advice Manager at The National Archives. In this lecture he distils years of research into the shipbuilding industry, maritime history and Scottish church history. He also reveals a key fact discovered in The National Archives itself.

September 15 2014


'A World of Their Design': The men who shaped Tudor diplomacy

In a time of shifting politics and world changing events, three men would emerge as masterful diplomats, ambassadors and advisors who possessed a shrewd political acumen. They each shared a complex and intriguing relationship with the other, while manipulating the powers around them in the game of diplomacy. Lauren Mackay explores the intersecting lives of Thomas Boleyn, Eustace Chapuys and Thomas Cromwell: the men behind the thrones.

Lauren Mackay is a historian whose research focuses on courtiers and diplomats of the 16th century. She completed her Master of History with University of New England, and is currently researching her PhD on Thomas and George Boleyn in the English Reformation, with the University of Newcastle in Australia.

September 14 2014


September 07 2014


September 04 2014


'Things as are all Forms, & Ceremonys': Ritual and authority in the reign of Queen Anne

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, impatient with courtly ritual, gave Queen Anne grudging praise for her knowledge of protocol: 'She has the greatest memory that ever was, especially for such things as are all forms, & ceremonys, giving people their due Ranks at Processions & their proper Places at Balls, & having the right order at Installments & funerals.'

The detailed records of court rituals held by The National Archives – including papers related to Anne’s coronation, the state visit she hosted for 'Charles III' of Spain, the funeral of Prince George, and her own funeral – attest to her close attention to courtly propriety. This talk explains that her motives for insisting on proper rituals were not merely personal and nostalgic but shrewdly political and diplomatic.

James A Winn is William Fairfield Warren Professor of English at Boston University. His books include Unsuspected Eloquence (1981), a history of the relations between poetry and music; John Dryden and His World (1987), a prize-winning biography; and The Poetry of War (2008).

There is a small degree of interference in the audio quality of this live recording.

September 03 2014


Webinar: Why did people fear the Victorian workhouse?

The workhouse was a major feature in the lives of the poor, whether or not they were ever inmates themselves. This webinar can help you to explore records in The National Archives, showing what life was like inside the workhouse, and how it was viewed by those outside.

Paul Carter is The National Archives’ principal specialist in modern domestic records. He has a particular interest in poor law records.

A 'webinar' is an online seminar. This webinar took place on 11 June 2014.

September 01 2014


Webinar: An introduction to emigration sources for family historians

This webinar looks at passenger lists and other records for the popular destinations for migrants leaving the UK. Increasing numbers of these records have been digitised and are now available online.

Mark Pearsall is a Family History Records Specialist at The National Archives, and co-authored Family History On The Move.


Webinar: Tracing British battalions or regiments during the First World War

Unit war diaries, trench maps and photographs are just some of the sources held in The National Archives. This webinar looks at how to find these records and how to use them.

David Langrish graduated in War Studies from the University of Kent and is a member of the military records team.

A 'webinar' is an online seminar. This webinar took place on 11 June 2014.

August 31 2014


August 29 2014


Webinar: Army musters – more than just accounts

This webinar looks at how the army accounted for the money it spent on its personnel and what you can discover in the records in addition to financial costs.

William Spencer is The National Archives’ Principal Records Specialist in military history, and the author of a number of books on military records.


Webinar: An introduction to medieval and early modern sources for family historians

Medieval and early modern records can be very informative, although they are often harder to locate than those for more recent periods. This webinar provides an overview of sources in The National Archives and elsewhere.

Nick Barratt is head of the Medieval and Early Modern team. He is also a writer and broadcaster on a range of historical subjects.

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