The 1530s were a decade of huge administrative and religious reform in England. While the policies were driven by Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s chief minister, from Whitehall in London, the effects were felt in many parts of the country.

The most visible and ruthless of Cromwell’s changes came in his dissolution of many centuries-old monasteries. These were more than religious houses. They were places of community and repositories of culture. Their loss was traumatic and much of what was destroyed could never be recovered.

In this episode we journey back to 1539 and the site of one such story. Our guest, the historian, academic and librarian, Richard Ovenden, takes us back to witness the fall of Glastonbury Abbey.

Richard Ovenden is the 25th Bodley’s Librarian (since the post was set up in 1600) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His book, Burning the Books, A History of Knowledge Under Attack, is out now and was recently shortlisted for prestigious the Wolfson History Prize.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Summer, 1539. The last of the halcyon days at Glastonbury Abbey.

Scene Two: Early Autumn, 1539. The visit of the Commissioners and the trial of Abbot Whiting.

Scene Three: Late Autumn, 1539. The formal dissolution of the Abbey and the beginning of the dispersal of the library.

Memento: St Dunstan’s Classbook

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Richard Ovenden

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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From the tides to lightning, the movement of the planets to the workings of the human body, the Enlightenment was an age of problem solving. In this episode we head back to 1739 to talk about efforts to combat one of these great puzzles: calculating the precise measurement of a degree of latitude.

Trying to solve this problem were the members of the very first international scientific expedition – an enterprise planned by the Académie des Sciences) in Paris. The expedition’s destination was the little-known equatorial region of South America, around the location of modern-day Ecuador.

Today’s guest Nicholas Crane takes us back to join this expedition at a crucial moment. Nicholas Crane is a writer, broadcaster and adventurer. He has presented the BAFA winning BBC show, Coast, as well as many others.

Crane’s new book, Latitude, tells the broader story of the history we engage with in this episode. To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Latitude, make sure you sign up to our newsletter list at our website: tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: April 17, 1739. peak of Sinasaguan: Four years after leaving Europe, survey is almost complete, when mountaintop camp is struck by terrible storm that smashes tents. Local helpers abandon the scientists. All seems lost. Yet the scientists persevere and descend the mountain with their observations.

Scene Two: May 20 1739. Ingapirca. During a bout of bad weather on the peak of  Bueran, La Condamine seizes opportunity to ride across valley and complete first detailed survey of an Inca site. It is one of a long list of episodes that show how the scientists spread their interest beyond geodesy.

Scene Three: August 29, 1739. Cuenca. The murder in a fiesta bullring of the expedition’s surgeon. Just as the science was nearing completion, a tragedy intervenes.

Memento: La Condamine's quadrant.

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Nicholas Crane

Production: Maria Nolan

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In this playful episode with the novelist Edward Rutherfurd, we venture east and back to the mid-nineteenth-century.

By 1839 Chinese patience with the British-run opium trade was running thin. Rutherfurd explains how a confrontation between the ancient, proud and insular Chinese and the merchant adventurers of the West had become inevitable and how, had he the chance, he would have tried to stop it.

Edward Rutherfurd is one of Britain’s great authors. Over the past 40 years he has written eight bestsellers, including his epic novel Sarum, which spent 23 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Rutherfurd's latest book, China, engages with the historical context we explore in this episode.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: June, 1839. Chinese Commissioner Lin burns thousands of chests of opium confiscated from British (and also American) merchants. This sets off the famous Opium Wars that so profoundly affect the attitude of China towards the West to this day.

Scene Two: October, 1839. The engagement of Victoria and Albert at Windsor Castle.

Scene Three: The following morning, October, 1839. Windsor Castle with all the newly-purchased equipment to make a Daguerrotype photograph.

Memento: An egg boiled by Warren Delano during the siege of the 'factories' at Canton.

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Edward Rutherfurd

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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St Paul’s Cathedral. The West End. The Houses of Parliament. London is one of the great cities of the world and we’re instantly familiar with its famous buildings and neighbourhoods. But rarely do we consider the simple question: ‘who owns it?’

This question is at the heart of a new book by the historian Leo Hollis. His research into the ownership of Britain’s capital took him on a journey deep into the personal history of a remarkable woman called Mary Davies, an heiress of enormous consequence who lived four hundred years ago.

In this episode Leo Hollis guides us back to 1701 and to an important year in Mary’s life and in the life of a city that was discovering its new, modern identity.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Leo Hollis is the author of three books including the international bestseller, Cities are Good for You. His new book, published in May, is called, Inheritance, The Lost History of Mary Davies.

Show notes

Scene One: March 1701, The still incomplete St Paul's cathedral, centrepiece of the huge rebuilding project that began as a result of the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Scene Two: 12-18 June 1701, Hotel Castille, Paris. Mary Davies arrives from Rome, suffering from serious mental illness and accompanied by the Fenwick brothers, whose actions during these few days form the basis of the ensuing court cases. What really did happen?

Scene Three: 13 August 1701. A lawyer for the supposed husband pins a court summons onto the railings of the home of Mrs Tregonwell in Millbank, Mary's mother. Mary is inside but refuses to come out. 

Memento: The only contract that Mary Grosvenor signed, from October 1700. 

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Leo Hollis

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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In 1915, D.H. Lawrence published his ‘big and beautiful book’, The Rainbow. Despite being considered one of his finest novels today, within a year of its publication it was censured by the state for obscenity and the remaining 1,011 copies of it were burnt by a hangman outside the Royal Exchange.

So begins the biographer Frances Wilson’s tour of 1915, which would turn out to be dark and turbulent year in the life of one of Britain’s most controversial writers.

Frances Wilson is an award-winning biographer and critic. Her latest book, Burning Man: The Ascent of D. H. Lawrence (Bloomsbury) focuses on the middle period of the writer’s life between 1915 and 1925.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show Notes

Scene One: November - Bow Street Magistrates Court, where D H Lawrence’s novel, The Rainbow, is tried for obscenity and the remaining 1.011 copies burnt by a hangman outside the Royal Exchange. Lawrence is not present at either event, but the destruction of his ‘big and beautiful book’  will impact dramatically on the direction of his writing.

Scene Two: November - The Vale of Health at the top of Hampstead Heath, where Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, are living in house in a row called Byron Villas. Lawrence now decides that he will become, like Byron himself, a literary outlaw: ‘I will retire out of the herd and throw bombs into it.’

Scene Three: March - Trinity College, Cambridge, where Lawrence, the son of a coal miner, is invited to High Table by Bertrand Russell. This is his first visit to the ancient university. After being paraded around like a pet, he gets a taste of Bloomsbury homosexuality and is horrified. A ‘little madness’ passes into him and for the next few weeks he loses his mind.

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Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Frances Wilson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerColorgraph

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In the early nineteenth-century a hitherto unremarkable man called James Lewis who was serving as a private in the East India Company decided to reinvent himself. He deserted and ran away to the little-known but beautiful city of Kabul in Afghanistan. Once there he came to dedicate himself to a strange and quixotic quest. He sought to find one of the great lost cities of the ancient world: Alexandria Under the Mountains.

In this evocative and beautifully-described episode of Travels Through Time, the academic historian Edmund Richardson takes us back to the year 1833. This was, he argued, the year when James Lewis transformed from an ordinary soldier into a man called Charles Masson – a figure who would change history.

The characters and storylines that feature in this episode arise from Edmund Richardson’s sparkling new book, Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City which has recently been published in hardback by Bloomsbury.

Edmund Richardson is Associate Professor of Classics at Durham University. In 2016, he was named one of the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Kabul, winter 1833. In the bazaars of Kabul - a warren of stalls and camels and shouting merchants from all over Asia - a bedraggled-looking man, dressed in shabby clothes, is listening to a storyteller.

Scene Two: Bagram, summer 1833. Masson rides out of Kabul in search of Alexander's city. It was called Alexandria beneath the Mountains, and was founded two and a half thousand years earlier.

Scene Three: Ludhiana, northern India, autumn 1833. In the sleepy, dusty town of Ludhiana, the British East India Company's spymaster is looking over reports from his informants in Kabul. He reads about a ragged stranger, who calls himself Charles Masson, and has spent the year hunting for Alexander's lost city.

Memento: Charles Masson’s drinking cup, symbolic of a different way of encountering Afghanistan.

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Edmund Richardson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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In 1943 the discovery of a series of mass graves in the Katyń Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union ignited one of the most explosive rows of the Second World War.

The identity of the victims was clear enough. They were the Polish military elite and significant figures – academics, writers, industrials, doctors - from wider Polish society.

But who was responsible? The Germans instantly blamed the Soviets. The Soviets retaliated that the accusation was a ‘vile slander’, intended to mask yet another instance of Nazi wickedness.

In this episode the writer Jane Rogoyska takes us back to the scene of a sinister and bitterly contested crime: the Katyń Massacre.

Jane Rogoyska is the author of Surviving Katyn: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth  

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: March 1940, Starobelsk camp, Soviet Ukraine. Bronisław Młynarski and his friends find a mysterious message tied to the collar of a stray dog.

Scene Two: April 1940, Starobelsk camp. NKVD Commissar Kirshin stands on the steps of the ruined church watching the transports of men depart: ‘You are leaving,’ he says, ‘for a place where I would like to go myself.’

Scene Three: July 1940, Griazovets camp near Vologda in the far north of Russia. The artist Józef Czapski gives an informal lecture about Marcel Proust, delivered entirely from memory, to a group of friends lying on the grass in the sun.

Memento: One of the Christmas decorations created by graphic artist Edward Manteuffel while he was a prisoner in Starobelsk camp.

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Jane Rogoyska

Production: Maria Nolan

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After the political drama of the first century BC came the magnificence of the Augustan Age. This was a peaceful time of great cultural expression – Livy, Virgil, Horace and, the focus of today’s episode, the poet Ovid.

Our guest, the scholar Llewelyn Morgan, takes us back to the very end of this glorious age in Roman history. We see how the people coped with the death of a long-lived emperor and we catch a glimpse of Ovid, the banished poet, who was desperate to seize his chance for a return home.

Professor Llewelyn Morgan is a scholar of Roman literature at Brasenose College, Oxford. He is the author of Ovid: A Very Short Introduction

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Rome. The funeral of Augustus, an extraordinary spectacle that he had planned to the last t himself. It was effectively an embodied history of Rome with all the major figures played by people wearing specially designed wax masks.

Scene Two: Tomi. Ovid off in exile on the Black Sea, melancholic and desperate to return to his beloved Rome. He writes poetic letters to a bunch of people he hopes can help him out, including one of the consuls for AD14 and Germanicus, the heir to the throne.

Scene Three: The Rhine. Germanicus dealing with army mutinies that break out on the critical Rhine frontier after Augustus' death. This revealed the real character of the Empire, where power really lay, and also provided insight into the lives of the ordinary people who filled the army ranks.

Memento: A wax mask worn by official mourners at the funeral of the Emperor Augustus.

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Llewelyn Morgan

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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Today we head back two thousand years to the rich, rowdy, ruthless Roman world of the Emperor Domitian. Our guide is the much-loved novelist Lindsey Davis.

***

For years Lindsey Davis has been captivating readers with her series of detective novels set in the first century AD. Her great protagonists, Falco and Flavia Albia, are names that are probably already familiar to you and enough in themselves to conjure memories of thrilling, twisting tales in Ancient Britain or in the Eternal City itself.

This spring Davis has published the latest book in her Flavia Albia series, A Comedy of Terrors, which is set in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and more specifically during the week running up to the Festival of Saturnalia.

For us this means the perfect guide and the perfect setting for a trip into the past. We’ll be giving a hardback copy of A Comedy of Terrors away to one of our newsletter subscribers this week – so to be in with a chance of winning it, make sure you visit our site and sign up.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Bay of Naples, ten years after Vesuvius.

Scene Two: Syria, to witness – the (third) Falso Nero episode.

Scene Three: The Black Banquet where senators and others were terrorised and Domitian’s big ‘friendly’ banquet for the entire Roman people.

Memento: A giant Roman measure of Falernian Wine from the slopes of Vesuvius

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Lindsey Davis

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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Civil unrest, a deadly sickness and trouble in the north? We’re visiting the year 1381 in this episode to examine a dramatic moment in ‘the calamitous fourteenth century.’ Our guide is the historian Helen Carr, author of a newly released biography of John of Gaunt - The Red Prince, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

John of Gaunt is a compelling figure. He was the son of Edward III, uncle of Richard II, Father of Henry IV and progenitor of the Tudor dynasty. Gaunt lived his life, as Carr explains, against some of the most challenging circumstances in English history.

Helen Carr is an historian of the Fourteenth Century and author of The Red Prince: John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (April 2021) and What is History, Now? (September 2021).

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: June London, Wat Tyler and thousands of rebels arrive in London, where they are joined by disgruntled locals and go on a rampage through they city. Their main target is John of Gaunt’s sumptuous home, the Savoy Palace, which they break into and annihilate – theft is not part of their plan, just destruction.

Scene Two: June Berwick on Tweed. Fortunately for him, John of Gaunt, was far away in Berwick on the Scottish border at this time, negotiating a truce. When he heard the terrible news from London, and the rumours that a huge peasant army was on its way north to find him, he ordered his numerous castles to be stocked up.

Scene Three: August the Scottish Borders. John of Gaunt is left hanging for weeks by his young nephew Richard II, awaiting word that he can return to his lands in the south and regain his authority. Percy, the most powerful northern Earl, takes advantage of John’s vulnerability and refuses to give him shelter.

Memento: One of John of Gaunt’s luxurious tapestries that hung in the Savoy Palace before it was destroyed by the rebels. 

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Helen Carr

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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Roland Philipps takes us to France on the eve of occupation. We follow the shifting fortunes of an extraordinary female double agent - Mathilde Carré, ‘La Chatte’ - whose life embodies the moral ambiguity of this period of French history.

Mathilde story – as told in our guest today’s latest book, Victoire: A Wartime Story of Resistance, Collaboration and Betrayal – illustrates the dark complexities of life in Vichy France. She was neither a perfect French patriot, nor a heartless traitor. What she was, however, was a survivor. 

Roland Philipps was a leading publisher for many years. His first book, A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean, was published in 2018. 

As ever, much, much more about this episode – including contemporary photographs of Vichy France and Mathilde - is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: 17th June 1940.  The Loire.  France is collapsing in the face of the Wehrmacht’s lightning war, millions are fleeing Paris and the north in ‘the Exodus’, amongst them Mathilde Carré, who has left her nursing station and is following the war south, outraged at what she sees as the cowardice of her country.

Scene Two: Mid-September 1940.  Toulouse.  The Vichy government is in place and France is divided between the occupied and non-occupied zones. Despair of Mathilde, about to commit suicide when she decides to become ‘a second Joan of Arc’.

Scene Three: 14th November 1940. Paris. Mathilde Carré arrives in Paris to found the Interallié intelligence network with Roman Czerniawski.

Memento: Mathilde’s ‘Spy’s Handbook’

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Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Roland Philipps

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerColorgraph

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Even in their own time the people of fifteenth-century Florence realised that they were living in a ‘Golden Age.’ In this episode we travel back to the year 1434 to meet some of the magical city’s most fascinating characters – among them, the young bookseller, Vespasiano da Bisticci.

Our guide for this episode is the New York Times bestselling historian Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling.

Vespasiano da Bisticci is the hero of King’s latest book, The Bookseller of Florence: Vespasiano da Bisticci and the manuscripts that illuminated the Renaissance.

As ever, much, much more about this episode – including a contemporary map of Florence and images of the key characters - is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: February, Vespasiano da Bisticci begins work in the bookshop of Michele Guardini.

Scene Two: June Pope Eugenius IV arrives in the city having fled Rome in terror for his life.

Scene Three: Cosimo de’Medici returns to Florence after a year-long exile in Venice.

Memento: The manuscript copy of Cicero’s Letters to Friends produced in Vespasiano’s workshop for the Hungarian scholar Janus Pannonius.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Ross King

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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