September 19, 2021

Season Five Trailer!

Hello to one and all! Almost two months has whizzed by since we rounded off our fourth season with Maximilien Robespierre’s execution in Revolutionary Paris. In that time we’ve had a good rest, spent lots of time reading and now we’re back to start all over again.

Our new season of recordings will begin this coming Tuesday with a fascinating conversation between Violet Moller and one of the world’s greatest living scholars: the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Professor Stephen Greenblatt.

Thereafter we’ll be off to the Battle of Waterloo, to Sicily and Australia, Ancient Egypt and Modern London, and many other places besides.

New episodes will be released on Tuesdays and to get the first news of them make sure you subscribe to our feeds on Apple Podcasts (UK, US, AU), Spotify, YouTube or wherever else you get your podcasts.

We hope you enjoy this little trailer. See you soon!

227 years to the day since Maximilien Robespierre went to the guillotine we investigate the circumstances of his downfall.

In this brilliantly analytical episode, Professor Colin Jones, one of the finest living scholars of early modern France, takes us back to one of the most dramatic episodes in all political history: 9-10 Thermidor in the Revolutionary Calendar, or 27-28 July in ours.

As Jones explains, Robespierre began 9 Thermidor feeling relatively secure as he went to sleep in his austere lodgings near the Place de la Révolution. By the time the sun set into the summer horizon, his position was parlous. The next day he would be dead.

The story and characters that feature in this episode of Travels Through Time are drawn from Jones’s forthcoming book, The Fall of Robespierre: twenty four hours in Revolutionary Paris, which will soon be published by Oxford University Press.

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

Show notes

Scene One: 12 midnight 8-9 Thermidor: Robespierre in his lodgings.

Scene Two: Some time in the evening – maybe around 9 pm – in the Place de la Maison Commune (Place de l’Hotel de Ville), a National Guard company discussing what is going on and what decision they should make over who to support.

Scene Three: Robespierre at midnight 9-10 Thermidor: reflecting on the day and his and the Revolution’s future.

Memento: Robespierre’s last letter.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Professor Colin Jones

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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How does a person reckon with a disturbing episode in their family’s past? For the journalist and historian Alex Renton, this question became acute five years ago when he realised the extent of his family’s involvement with slavery. In his book, Blood Legacy, Renton decided to confront this history head-on.

As Renton describes in this episode, his approach is unusual in a British society that either avoids the subject of slavery, or prefers to recast the story in the celebratory terms of William Wilberforce and the Abolition Movement.

The reality, however, is not so comfortable. Renton takes us back to the 1830s, to the very moment slavery was abolished across the British Empire. He explains that during this time pragmatism was at play as well as principle, and that while very many families lost their slaves, they also became spectacularly rich.

Alex Renton is a campaigning journalist working on poverty, development, the environment, food culture and food policy. He has won awards for investigative journalism, war reporting and food writing.

Blood Legacy: Reckoning with a Family’s Story of Slavery is an account of his own family’s involvement in slavery during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

More about this episode and the subject matter it engages with will be shortly be available on website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: August 1st 1838, Falmouth, Jamaica. William Knibb and his congregation meet to bury a coffin containing a whip, chains and an iron punishment collar. An inscription by the burial reads: 'Colonial Slavery died 31st July 1838, aged 276.'

Scene Two: August 28th 1839, Ayrshire, Scotland. The Eglinton Tournament begins.

Scene Three: 1839, Rochdale. The founders of the Anti-Corn Law League, Richard Cobden and John Bright deliver their first speeches in what would become one of the most successful campaigns of the 19th century. The trade reforms they campaigned for would destroy the sugar island economies and put most of the newly liberated people out of work and into desperate poverty for the next 50 years.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Alex Renton

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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According to one critic, the world the novelist Ellen Alpsten conjures in her book The Tsarina's Daughter makes Game of Thrones 'look like a nursery rhyme.'

This world - the Russia of Peter the Great - is our destination in this week's episode. Peter the Great is known as the man who struggled in the early eighteenth-century to transform his country into a modern, West-facing nation by defeating the Swedes, founding St Petersburg, and creating a navy.

Yet his much-celebrated achievements should be considered alongside the conditions of the Russian people at this time. Russia was a land whose greatest natural resource were its beleaguered inhabitants. Here were millions of serfs whose disposable lives made anything possible for its omnipotent ruler, the Tsar.

Everything that belonged to a Russian belonged first and foremost to him. And with a nation of slaves at his beck and call, pretty much anything could be achieved through ruthlessness and ambition.   

For the women around him, however, the world was quite different. Kept as private possessions, hidden away in the great palaces and stately homes of the aristocracy, they were seen only by their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Uneducated, isolated, and entirely dependent on the will of the men around them.

Even so, many did manage to lead astonishing lives. It is these women whose stories Ellen Alpsten tells us all about, as we venture back to the year 1709.

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

Show notes

Scene One: The battlefield outside the Ukrainian city of Poltava

Scene Two: The Red Square outside the Kremlin fortress

Scene Three: A bedchamber in the magical timber palace of Kolomenskoye

Memento: Elisabeth’s St Nicholas amulet, studded with diamonds, which she wore around her neck for protection.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Ellen Alpsten

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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See where 1709 fits on our Timeline 

This week marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Britain. In that perilous moment of the Second World War, with the Nazi forces gathered just across the English Channel, the British people put their faith in the pilots of the RAF and that most captivating of aeroplanes: the Spitfire.

The Spitfire is widely known as a masterpiece of British engineering. It could fly at speeds of around 400mph and it had enormous dexterity, making it a formidable foe in a dogfight. But where did these qualities come from? In today’s episode the writer and radio producer Alasdair Cross takes us back to 1925’s Schneider Trophy to show us the genesis of this fabled aeroplane.

Alasdair Cross is a successful radio and TV producer and the co-author of The Spitfire Kids: The generation who built, supported and flew Britain's most beloved fighter.

Brought up in the Orkney Islands, an annual summer treat was Britain’s smallest air show, once memorably visited by a powder pink Spitfire. He has worked on many BBC programmes as well as the popular BBC World Service podcast Spitfire: The People’s Plane.

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

Show notes

Scene One: 3 January 1925 - Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy- Mussolini makes a speech which effectively makes him dictator of Italy. So begins the new age of the dictators, but also a time of glamour and speed.

Scene Two: 10 March 1925, Supermarine factory, Southampton, UK. Henri Biard flies the Southampton flying boat for the first time. This is the aircraft that establishes the reputation of RJ Mitchell and ensures the longevity and prosperity of the Supermarine company.

Scene Three: 23 October 1925. Baltimore, USA. This is the location for the Schneider Trophy race of 1925.  Mitchell’s revolutionary S4, the precursor of the Spitfire, crashes. Mitchell has stretched too far but will learn an enormous amount from the experience.

Memento: Henri Biard’s flying suit.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Alasdair Cross

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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See where 1925 fits on our Timeline 

In 1520 the artist Albrecht Dürer was on the run from the Plague and on the look-out for distraction when he heard that a huge whale had been beached on the coast of Zeeland. So he set off to see the astonishing creature for himself.

In this beautifully-evoked episode the award-winning writing Philip Hoare takes us back to those consequential days in 1520. We catch sight of Dürer, the great master of the Northern Renaissance, as he searches for the whale. This, he realises, is his chance to make his greatest ever print.

Philip Hoare is the author of nine works of non-fiction, including biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noël Coward, and the studies, Wilde's Last Stand and England's Lost Eden.  Spike Island was chosen by W.G. Sebald as his book of the year for 2001.  In 2009, Leviathan or, The Whale won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. It was followed in 2013 by The Sea Inside, and in 2017 by RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR. 

His new book, Albert & the Whale led the New York Times to call the author a 'forceful weather system' of his own. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, and co-curator, with Angela Cockayne, of the digital projects http://www.mobydickbigread.com/ and https://www.ancientmarinerbigread.com/

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

Show notes

Scene One: Nuremberg, home of Albrecht Dürer, at the height of its power as an imperial city, of art and technology.

Scene Two: The Low Countries. Driven out of Nuremberg by the plague and a city in lockdown, Dürer escapes to the seaside.

Scene Three: Halfway through his year away, Dürer hears a whale has been stranded in Zeeland.  This is his chance to make his greatest print, a follow up to his hit woodcut of a rhinoceros.  What follows next is near disaster, a mortal act.  It changes his life.

Memento: Memento: A lock of Dürer’s hair (which Hoare would use to regenerate him and then get him to paint his portrait)

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Philip Hoare

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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See where 1520 fits on our Timeline 

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

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Richard Ovenden

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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See where 1539 fits on our Timeline 

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.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Nicholas Crane

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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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.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Edward Rutherfurd

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

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See where 1839 fits on our Timeline

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. 

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Leo Hollis

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1701 fits on our Timeline

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.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Frances Wilson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerColorgraph

Follow us on Twitter@tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1915 fits on our Timeline

 

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.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Edmund Richardson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1833 fits on our Timeline

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