This week we are travelling back to the ninth century to witness one of the major turning points in English history.

Winston Churchill regularly tops ‘the greatest Briton of all time’ charts, but his own vote for this accolade apparently went to the man we are going to discuss today.

Alfred 'the Great' is the only English monarch to enjoy such an admiring epithet, his brother Athelstan is remembered as ‘the Unready’ (although this meant poorly advised rather than unprepared), William I is either ‘the conqueror’ or ‘the bastard’ depending on your point of view – no other monarch’s reputation has survived with a rosy glow.

Our time travel today in the company of the world-renowned historian Michael Wood reveals exactly why Alfred is so well thought of. He takes us back to 878, a pivotal year in our history when, against all the odds, the Viking invaders were defeated, pushed out of Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex and the geopolitics were set for the following centuries.

Michael Wood’s In Search of the Dark Ages: a History of Anglo-Saxon England 40th anniversary edition, is newly published by BBC Books.

As ever, for more about this episode, head over to our website: www.tttpodcast.com

Show notes

Scene One: March 23rd Easter at Athelney, after Alfred’s desperate guerrilla war in the Somerset marshes.

Scene Two: 9th May, the Battle of Edington, Alfred defeats the Viking forces against all odds.

Scene Three: 26th June Treaty at Wedmore which changed the course of the Viking wars and resulted in their leader, Guthrum converting to Christianity with Alfred as his godfather.

Memento: Alfred’s little commonplace book that he carried around with him, and perhaps had with him in the marshes.

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Michael Wood

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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Almost exactly a century ago, on 22 June 1922, a series of gunshots rang out in Belgravia, London. Out of this polite neighbourhood, home to powerful politicians and wealthy financiers, a shocking news story quickly spread. Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson, MP, one of the great heroes of the Great War had been assassinated.

Who was responsible, why it mattered, and what happened next is the subject of an incisive, absorbing new book called Great Hatred, by the Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy. As McGreevy explains in this episode of Travels Through Time, the bullets that were fired that day in Belgravia did not just cause one death. They led very soon afterwards to an equally significant other.

Ronan McGreevy’s Great Hatred: the Assassination of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, MP, is newly issued in hardback by Faber.

As ever, for more about this episode, head over to our website: www.tttpodcast.com

Show notes

Scene One: Liverpool Street Station at 12.50pm on June 22nd, 1922: Henry Wilson unveils a war memorial.

Scene Two: 36 Eaton Place at 2.30pm on June 22nd 1922:  Henry Wilson is murdered on his own doorstep.

Scene Three: Béal na Bláth (the Mouth of the Flowers), Co Cork August 22nd, 1922: Michael Collins is shot dead by anti-Treaty forces in an ambush.

Momento: Henry Wilson’s sword.

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Ronan McGreevy

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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In this episode we’re heading to the 1960s to meet a man who tried to uncover the difference between fate and coincidence.

Have you ever had a feeling that something would happen before it did? Or seen something you couldn’t make sense of? In 1967 the psychiatrist John Barker set up a bureau in the offices of the London Evening Standard where members of the public could phone in and report their premonitions.

A strange dream. A headache and an overwhelming feeling of dread. A vision without any clear meaning. Over the courses of its two year existence the Premonitions Bureau collected countless sinking feelings and strange suspicions. They were categorised, logged and when a disaster occurred, they were cross-referenced to see how accurate they had been.

The premonitions bureau was so much more than a curious oddity. As our guest today, Sam Knight, shows in his new book, the bureau not only gives us insight into this moment in British social history, but also into the human condition.

Sam Knight is the author of The Premonitions Bureau.

Show Notes

Scene One: January 4, 8:50am in the newsroom of the Evening Standard newspaper, just off Fleet Street.

Scene Two: April 21, 10am in the office of John Barker on the first floor of Shelton Hospital, outside Shrewsbury.

Scene Three: November 5, 9.16pm, Hither Green railway station, south London.

Memento: The files containing all the premonitions recorded at the bureau.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Sam Knight

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerAce Cultural Tours

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On 26 November 1922 Howard Carter gazed into the darkness of a newly-discovered tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Can you see anything? Lord Carnarvon, his companion and sponsor asked him. ‘Yes,’ Carter replied, ‘wonderful things.’

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This year marks the centenary of perhaps the greatest archaeological discovery in history. At the end of 1922, the world was astonished by the news from Thebes in Egypt. After years of searching, a discovery of the most extraordinary nature was made in the Valley of the Kings.

In this episode, the renowned Egyptologist and scholar Toby Wilkinson takes us back to a story that is still as magnetic and magical as ever: the Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb.

As ever, there is much more about this episode on our website: tttpodcast.com

Toby Wilkinson’s new book, Tutankhamun’s Trumpet: the story of Ancient Egypt in 100 Objects has just been released in hardback by Picador.

Show notes

Scene One: The summer of 1922, Highclere Castle. Howard Carter visits Lord Carnarvon.

Scene Two: 4 November 1922. The Valley of the Kings. The discovery of the first step.

Scene Three: 26 November 1922. The Valley of the Kings. The opening of the tomb.

Memento: The water jug that Hussein Abdel Rasoul set down in the sand of the Valley of the Kings on the morning of 4 November 1922.

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Toby Wilkinson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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In this episode we strap on our armour and brace ourselves for battle! From the monumental ruins of strongholds like Conwy and Dover to the fantastical turrets of Hogwarts, castles are an important element in our vision of the past. They played a vital role in history, as centres of defence and political power, the physical foundation of royal and noble authority. 

This week, we are travelling through time with the acclaimed architectural historian John Goodall. His new book The Castle: A History tells the stories of these influential buildings through riveting snapshots at various moments in their history.

John takes us to visit several important castles in the year 1217, a turbulent moment in English history when rebel barons had asked the French king Louis for help in their struggle against the notoriously bad King John. In the ensuing civil war, castles played a vital role as centres of defence – so much so that John demanded his knights to destroy them rather than see them falling into French hands. Fortunately for posterity, they ignored his orders.

John Goodall is the architectural editor of Country Life magazine. He is the author of The Castle: A History (Yale University Press).

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: 20 May 1217. Lincoln Henry III’s forces brutally sack the city of Lincoln in the aftermath of the battle because the citizens sided with Louis and the French, an event known sardonically as ‘Lincoln Fair’.

Scene Two: 24 August 1217. The Battle of Sandwich, a decisive moment in the war when the English royalist army defeats Louis and pushes the French back across the Channel.

Scene Three: 12 September 1217. On an island on the Thames near Kingston, the Treaty of Lambeth is signed by both sides in which Louis formally gives up his claim to the English throne, wearing just his underwear and a cloak.

Memento: The coronet Henry III wore at his coronation aged 9, made of his mother’s jewels especially for the event.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: John Goodall

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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1492 famously brought Columbus’s discovery of a route to America. This was, as today’s guest Felipe Fernández-Armesto points out, ‘a world-changing event if ever there was one.’ But what else was happening in that fateful year? Far beyond the courts of Europe, what was life like in China? In Africa?

In this week’s brilliantly insightful episode we set out on a journey of our own to glimpse 1492 in three telling scenes. Our guest is one of the finest imaginable. Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an eminent and hugely decorated author who had written extensively about maritime and world history. In this episode he guides us from the tranquil hills of China to the rivers of Africa and the smouldering shores of the Caribbean in the year 1492.

But before all of that, he begins by telling us about another figure from this opening phase of the Age of Exploration, the character at the centre of his latest ‘myth-busting’ biography: Ferdinand Magellan.

As ever, there is much more about this episode on our website: tttpodcast.com

Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s new book is called Straits: Beyond the Myth of Magellan

Show notes

Scene One: 15th day of 7th month (August 7th), Xiangcheng, China. The poet Shen Zhou paints a mystical experience.

Scene Two: November or December, death scene of Sonni Ali, perhaps in a crossing of the River Niger in the vicinity of Gao.

Scene Three: 12th October, somewhere in the West Indies, probably Watling Island. Columbus meets Indigenous Americans for the first time.

Memento: One of Shen Zhou’s paintings.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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In this episode we head to Victorian Britain, where leaps in technology were making the world seem smaller and faster than ever before. Our guide is the author and film-maker Paul Fischer whose new book, The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures, charts the incredible race to invent the first film camera and projector. 

The late nineteenth century was a world full of contradictions. Categorically Victorian but also undeniably modern. Technological developments were exhilarating and anxiety-inducing. For the first time in history, it was possible to speak to people miles away using a telephone. You could sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a week. But this was also a world where the fastest mode of individual transport was still a horse, where the electric lightbulb was barely ten years old and where the idea of motion pictures was still a beautiful idea waiting to be made a reality.

In this episode we meet Louis Le Prince, the enigmatic hero at the heart of The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures. We join him as he becomes the first person to successfully capture and replay moving images, as well as visiting two other telling scenes in the rise of modern Britain.

Paul Fischer was born in Saudi Arabia. He is the author of A KIM JONG-IL PRODUCTION, the true story of the kidnapping of two South Korean filmmakers to Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea, which was translated into fourteen languages, nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award, and chosen as one of the best books of 2015 by NPR and Library Journal. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Independent, among others.

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: 30-31 August 1888, the Frying Pan public house, Whitechapel, London. Mary Ann Nichols is drinking in the pub in Spitalfields. By morning, she will be found dead — the first victim of the killer who will come to be known as Jack the Ripper.

Scene Two: 8 September 1888, Pikes Lane Football Ground, Bolton. Kenny Davenport scores the first-ever goal in the first match in the newly-formed Football League.

Scene Three: 14 October 1888, Roundhay Gardens, Yorkshire. Louis Le Prince assembles his family on the lawn of their home — to film the world’s first ever motion picture.

Momento: Some of the missing negatives from Le Prince's early films. 

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Paul Fischer

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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In this episode, we are donning our lab coats and gaining access to the secrets of particle physics. We visit 1932, an astonishing year in the history of science across the world, from Carl Anderson’s rooftop cloud chamber in California, to Marietta Blau’s mountaintop experiments in Austria, via the Cavendish Lab at the University of Cambridge.

Our guest is Dr Suzie Sheehy. Dr Sheehy is unusual for Travels Through Time – she is a scientist rather than a historian – but she is also quite unusual within her own field of accelerator physics. Firstly, because she is a woman, and secondly because she is a brilliant communicator, able to beautifully articulate the wonder and complexity of Physics.

In her new book, The Matter of Everything, Twelve Experiments that Changed Our World she tells the major discovery stories of the past century: the cathode ray tube that brought us television, splitting the atom, finding new particles and, of course, the Large Hadron Collider and Higgs Boson. Behind each of these breakthroughs are the brilliant scientists whose curiosity and persistence made them possible. 

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: 2nd August 1932. The discovery of the positron, Carl Anderson, at Caltech in America.

Scene Two: 14th April 1932. Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, the splitting of the atom Ernest Rutherford (at almost the same time James Chadwick discovers the neutron in the same lab!).

Scene Three: 1932. Hafelekar observatory, Marietta Blau and her assistant Hertha Wambacher place 'emulsion plates' 7,500 feet above sea level, near Innsbruck, Austria. They would go on to have a huge impact scientifically, but as women their work was undervalued and overlooked at the time.

Momento: Marietta Blau’s diaries so Dr Sheehy could write about her and fully reveal her genius and achievements to the world.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Dr Suzie Sheehy

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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In the spring of 1815, as all Europe fretted about the return of Napoleon Bonaparte, a terrible massacre was perpetrated by British militiamen against American inmates at Dartmoor Prison in England.

This episode has been very nearly forgotten by history. Today the historian Nicholas Guyatt takes us back to the early nineteenth-century, to the days of the very last war between Great Britain and the United States of America, to explain just what happened.

Nicolas Guyatt is Professor of North American History at the University of Cambridge. His new book, The Hated Cage, is a forensic, erudite and absorbing account of the Dartmoor Massacre.

Today’s episode comes along with a few fabulous extras. Along with the usual episode page on our website, you can also read a beautifully-illustrated and introduced extract from The Hated Cage on Unseen Histories. And, for those of you who are very interested in this story, we added the full, uncut video of the conversation between Peter and Nicolas on our YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Show notes

Scene One: Ghent, 24 December 1814 – the signing of the treaty that would end the War of 1812.

Scene Two:  Dartmoor, England. 26 March 1815. A mock trial is held by the inmates.

Scene Three: Dartmoor, 6 April 1815. The day of the massacre.

Memento: The effigy of Reuben Beasley

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Nicholas Guyatt

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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This week we are setting sail for the Roman province of Britannia to traverse the empire's north-western frontier – Hadrian's Wall. 

Hadrian’s Wall is the largest archaeological feature remaining from Roman Britain, a 73-mile line of fortifications stretching from the River Tyne on the east coast to the Solway Firth on the west. Building was begun by the Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD, during a visit to this remote, unruly corner of his empire. Astonishingly, only five percent has been excavated to date, so new finds and evidence are unearthed surprisingly often.

In this episode we follow in the footsteps of a brilliant young general making his way from Rome to Britain to take up his post as governor of this outpost of the empire in 130AD. Our navigator is Bronwen Riley, a historian who traced this journey in her rigorously researched yet highly readable book, Journey to Britannia. She brings life in the second century into vivid focus by taking us to the dodgy quayside bars of Antica Ostia where the snacks were questionable and the wine was liberally watered down and into the private thoughts of Dutch soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall desperate for a taste of home.

Bronwen Riley is a writer, editor and deviser of historical and literary journeys in Britain, Byzantium and beyond. She has a special interest in the Classical world and in Romania, both life-long passions. She is a director of the Transylvanian Book Festival (transylvanianbookfestival.com). Read more about her creative writing project with the Romanians on Hadrian’s Wall at bronwenriley.co.uk/dacians-on-the-wall. Her latest book Journey to Britannia from the Heart of Rome to Hadrian’s Wall AD130 (Head of Zeus) is now out in paperback.

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: July 130 AD. Severus and Minicius Natalis prepare to leave Rome, they visit relatives and plan for the long months ahead on the road and in their new lives in Britain. 

Scene Two: October 130 AD. On one of his many peregrinations around the empire, Hadrian visits Egypt (holiday hotspot of the ancient world) with a vast entourage including both his wife and his lover, travelling in unparalleled style and luxury on a ship with purple sails (probably).

Scene Three: 130 AD. Severus reaches Britain and begins his journey northwards taking in the major cities and camps along the way, meeting officials and inspecting his soldiers. 

Momento: A souvenir cup from Hadrian’s Wall in all its enamelled glory but also would love to visit a bookshop to see if some Greek antiquary/interpreter has transcribed any British poetry or Druidic philosophy!

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Bronwen Riley

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerUnseen Histories

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This week we head back to Renaissance England to immerse ourselves in the world of John Donne, one of Britain’s most ingenious poets. We visit playhouses, bear-fighting pits and the poet’s marital bed to better understand Donne’s life and work. 

John Donne led many lives, from a young rake in his early years to archdeacon of St Paul’s in his old age. Born into a grand Catholic family who had suffered persecution under Protestant monarchs, he was intimately acquainted with the cruelty of sixteenth-century England. In particular, the tragic death of his younger brother who, aged just nineteen, was thrown into prison for hiding a Jesuit priest and subsequently caught the plague. 

However Donne’s poetry isn’t defeatist – he was famous in his time for his unusual, intelligent and imaginative work, which used fleas to talk about sex and violence to talk about God. And in the view of our guest today, Katherine Rundell, Donne should be considered alongside William Shakespeare as one of the finest wordsmiths this country has ever produced. That’s why she has written a sparkling new biography of the poet: Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne

Katherine Rundell is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her bestselling books for children have been translated into more than thirty languages and have won multiple awards. She has written for, amongst others, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times: mostly about books, though sometimes about night climbing, tightrope walking, and animals.

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: 1601. John Donne composing rakish poetry as a man about town - including almost certainly Love’s Growth - attending bear baiting 

Scene Two: 1601. The first performance of Hamlet - which Donne would, perhaps, as a great attender of plays, have gone to see

Scene Three: 1601. John Donne marries the 17 year old Anne and is thrown in the Fleet prison by her father, amid ice-cold winds and lice

Momento: John Donne’s Commonplace book. 

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Katherine Rundell

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

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This week we head to fifteenth-century Norwich to meet two of the most extraordinary women in medieval England: Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich. 

Manuscripts are one of the most tangible sources of evidence we have about the distant past and our guest this week, Mary Wellesley, has dedicated her professional life to studying them and persuading them to give up their secrets. In her spellbinding book, Hidden Hands: the Lives of Manuscripts and their Makers, she reveals traces left by the people who made these vital artefacts. As she explains, manuscripts are ‘the only connection we have with these people in the past who would otherwise remain completely anonymous and unknown.' 

In this episode Mary takes us to the early fifteenth century, a period of unease in religion when reformist ideas were circulating and the Church reacted violently against anything that appeared to challenge its orthodoxy.

Mary Wellesley is a research affiliate at the British Library and Medieval Language and Literature course tutor for the library's adult learning programme. She's a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the TLS, amongst others. Hidden Hands is her first book.

This episode is sponsored by ACE Cultural Tours, the oldest and most experienced provider of study tours and cultural travel in the United Kingdom. Find out more via their website at www.aceculturaltours.co.uk or speak to their friendly team on 01223 841055.

Show Notes

Scene One: Early 1413. The boisterous mystic and serial pilgrim visited the cell of the anchoress, Julian of Norwich. 

Scene Two: Late 1413. Margery sets off on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Scene Three: 1413. The exemplar of the Short Text of Julian’s Revelations was copied.

Momento: Julian of Norwich's autograph copy of the Long Text. 

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Mary Wellesley

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerUnseen Histories

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See where 1413 fits on our Timeline 

 

 

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