This week, the performer and author Elizabeth Wilson speaks to Artemis from the offices of Yale University Press in Bedford Square. Elizabeth tells us about the early life of a remarkable pianist, Maria Yudina, who rose to fame in Stalin’s Russia.

Maria Yudina was born in 1899 to a Jewish family in Nevel, a small town which now sits close to Russia’s border with Belarus. Legend has it that Maria was Stalin’s favourite pianist. Those who have seen Armando Iannucci’s satirical film The Death of Stalin may remember the opening scene in which a pianist is forced to repeat her live performance so that a recording can be made of it and sent to Stalin. As Elizabeth explains in her new biography of the musician, Playing with Fire, the provenance of this story and whether it is about Maria is unclear. However, there is no shortage of fascinating and true stories about Maria, as Elizabeth shows us in this conversation.

Maria came of age as the February revolution broke out in St Petersburg, where she was studying music. She took part briefly – even accidentally firing a rifle through a ceiling – before being questioned by a teacher from the conservatoire where she was studying. For most of her life though, Maria wasn’t a revolutionary but an intellectual. Her social circle was made up of the leading figures of Russia’s intelligentsia, including Boris Pasternak, Pavel Florensky, and Mikhail Bakhtin. 

In this episode we visit Maria in 1921, the year she graduated from the conservatoire and was appointed as a member of staff aged just 21. It was also a year in which the relationship between Russia’s new revolutionary state and the country’s artists and intellectuals felt uneasy and, at times, destructive. 

 

Show notes:

Scene One: Maria’s graduation ceremony.

Scene Two: Maria’s debut performance in Petrograd, which coincides with the poet Alexander Blok’s death and funeral. 

Scene Three: The end of the civil war and the introduction of NEP.

Memento: A chess set which shows pieces representing 2 sides of the Russian Civil War.

 

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Elizabeth Wilson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1921 fits on our Timeline

On 2 November 1967 Winnie Ewing shocked the political establishment when she won the Scottish seat of Hamilton for the Scottish National Party. As today’s guest, Professor Murray Pittock explains, so began a month that would radically re-shape modern British politics.

***

For British politics the 1960s was a testing time. While the country experienced its fabled cultural flowering, it simultaneously had to come to terms with its reduced place in the world. Decolonisation was going ahead at pace. Sterling was losing its power as a currency. In geo-politics Britain did not know where to turn: to the United States, or towards Europe and the EEC.

In this episode Murray Pittock shows how Britain was forced to confront all of these issues within the space of one single month. November 1967 opened with a political shock, when the young politician Winnie Ewing won a bi-election for the Scottish National Party. During her campaign she made use of a gripping slogan: ‘Stop the World: Scotland Wants to Get On.’

Here was an early sign of something to come. And as the SNP rose north of the border, more trouble was simmering to the south in Westminster. Soon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, would be obliged to resign. And in Europe, too, Charles de Gaulle was poised to make matters still worse.

Professor Murray Pittock is one of Scotland’s foremost living historians. He is the Bradley Chair at the University of Glasgow, where he is also Pro-Vice Principal. He is the author of many books, the most recent of which is Scotland: The Global History: 1603 to the Present.

Show notes

Scene One: 2 November 1967: Winnie Ewing wins the Hamilton by-election a total surprise, with the victory slogan ‘Stop the World: Scotland wants to get on’.

Scene Two: 18 November 1967: sterling devalued against the US $ by 14%; Chancellor of the Exchequer resigns.

Scene Three: 27 November 1967: UK application to join EEC vetoed for a second time by de Gaulle.

Memento: $1 Silver Certificate banknote

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Professor Murray Pittock

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1967 fits on our Timeline

This week the Roman historian and archaeologist Jane Draycott takes us to meet one of history’s most glamorous and infamous couples, Antony and Cleopatra. 

We join them in a crucial year in the history of Ancient Rome, around 31/30 BCE, when the Roman republic fell away and Octavian – later Emperor Augustus – seized power and founded the Roman Empire, with disastrous consequences for Antony, Cleopatra and their children.

This dramatic piece of history forms the origin story of Cleopatra Selene, Antony and Cleopatra’s only daughter and the subject of Jane’s fascinating new book, Cleopatra’s Daughter: Egyptian Princess, Roman Prisoner, African Queen.

In this episode we explore the years leading up to the Battle of Actium as well as the battle itself and Antony and Cleopatra’s subsequent suicides. We unravel the truth behind some of the most famous stories about the couple, and explore the nature of female political power in the ancient world. 

 

Show notes

Scene One: 2nd September 31 BCE. The Battle of Actium.

Scene Two: 1st August 30 BCE. Octavian captures Alexandria and the suicide of Mark Antony. 

Scene Three: 10th August 30 BCE. The suicide of Cleopatra. 

Momento: Cleopatra’s long-lost mausoleum.

 

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Jane Draycott

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 31/30 BCE fits on our Timeline

This Remembrance Week the best-selling historian James Holland takes us back to a crucial year in the Second World War. We travel to Gold Beach on D-Day and then into the country lanes of Normandy on the trail of the Sherwood Rangers.

*

On the damp and blustery morning of 6 June 1944 the Sherwood Rangers fought their way onto Gold Beach. An armoured regiment, filled with Sherman tanks, the Sherwood Rangers had already had an exhausting war. From Palestine to North Africa, the young men in its ranks had been involved in much bitter fighting. Now, as D-Day began, the regiment began its bloodiest campaign yet.

This week’s guest, James Holland, takes us back to that time. He tells us about some of the Sherwood Rangers’ memorable individuals – men like the charismatic Stanley Christopherson and the awe-inspiring John Semken.

He explains the dilemma that confronted the Rangers as they tried to establish a beachhead on D-Day and he takes us back to a moment of huge personal bravery several weeks later as the Battle for Normandy played out.

Last of all, we see the Rangers on Christmas Day – exhausted, depleted but still with their humour and humanity.

The stories that feature in this week’s episode come from James Holland’s latest book. Brothers in Arms: One Legendary Tank Regiment's Bloody War from D-Day to VE-Day .

Show notes

Scene One: Tuesday, 6 June - Gold Beach, Normandy

Scene Two: Monday, 26 June - Rauray Ridge, Normandy

Scene Three: Monday, 25 December - Schinnen, Netherlands

Memento: Sgt. George Dring’s tank Akilla

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: James Holland

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1944 fits on our Timeline

As 1945 began the greatest conflict in human history was drawing to a close. But with the war in the west almost over, a new question was increasingly being asked. It was one to which Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt all had different answers. What was going to happen next?

In this episode the million-copy bestselling author Giles Milton takes us back to some key moments in 1945. At Yalta on the Crimean peninsula and later in the ruins of Berlin, the shape of the post war world – the world we know today – was beginning to take shape.

What is clear now was not so then. Were the Allies really friends or were, as Churchil worried to Anthony Eden, they hurtling towards a third world war? Arriving in Berlin at the start of July 1945, the US army colonel Frank Howley feared much the same. As Milton explains, it was Howley who saw before almost anyone else that the Germans had ceased to be enemies and the Russians had ceased to be friends.

The characters and stories that feature in this episode of Travels Through Time form part of Milton’s latest book. Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World.

Show notes

Scene One: 4 February 1945. Yalta. Opening of the Crimea Conference

Scene Two: 2 May 1945. Berlin. Yevgeny Khaldei takes a photograph of the Soviet flag being raised over the Reichstag

Scene Three: 1 July 1945. Berlin. Colonel Howley arrives

Memento: A little of the Schliemann Gold

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Giles Milton

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1945 fits on our Timeline

Walking around a cathedral today can be a solemn and an awe-inspiring experience, but what if we could stand inside the same building and travel back 800 years or so? In this episode we do exactly that.

Our guide is Dr Emma J. Wells, a historian, broadcaster and author of Heaven on Earth: The Lives and Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Emma visits sixteen world-renowned cathedrals ranging from Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, to the “northern powerhouse” of York Minster. She describes their origins, the striking and unusual stories attached to them and the people central to their history. 

In this episode, Emma takes me to the high medieval period, when European architecture was falling in love with the gothic style and cathedral-building was at its height. 

Dr Emma J. Wells’s new book Heaven on Earth is out now from Head of Zeus. 

Show notes

Scene One: Canterbury cathedral, trinity chapel, the scene of St Thomas Becket’s elevation and translation into his new shrine.

Scene Two: Salisbury, the ceremonial laying of the first five foundation stones of the new cathedral after its move from Old Sarum.  

Scene Three: Chartres, France, William me Breton described the growing cathedral’s vaults as bringing to ‘look like the shell of a tortoise’ referring to the higher vaults and a longer and wider nave than any other in Christendom.

Memento: To restore the “super-shrine” of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Dr Emma J. Wells

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1220 fits on our Timeline

In the final sentence of A People’s Tragedy, his multi-award winning study of the Russian Revolution, Orlando Figes wrote ominously that, ‘the ghosts of 1917 have not been laid to rest.’

This year, as Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has played out, we have been able to glimpse some of these ghosts: fear, paranoia, grievance. All these emotions have arisen out of a long, complicated and contested history that Figes has attempted to explain for a Western readership in his illuminating new book: The Story of Russia.

In this episode we talk about Vladimir Putin’s use and misuse of history today and we look back to a particularly significant year in Russia’s past. 1917 brought revolution to Russia. ‘It is hard to think of an event, or series of events, that has affected the history of the past one hundred years more profoundly’, Figes writes.

The Russian Revolution is an event that began in Petrograd (St Petersburg) in Feburary 1917 and thereafter was driven forward by Vladimir Lenin's singular character. We scruitinise this event, as ever, in three telling scenes.

Orlando Figes’s The Story of Russia is out now from Bloomsbury.

Show notes

Scene One: March 1917. Tauride Palace in Petrograd (St Petersburg).

Scene Two: 3-4 July 1917. Kshesinskaya Mansion in Petrograd.

Scene Three: 25 October 1917. Smolnyi Institute in Petrograd.

Memento: Grand Duke Michael's abdication manifesto

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Orlando Figes

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1917 fits on our Timeline

Having watched the second Elizabethan era draw to a close in recent weeks, it is fitting that in this episode we are going back to the beginning of the first Elizabethan era – the moment when Mary Tudor died leaving the throne to her younger half-sister.

These two queens, the first women to rule England in their own right, were divided by their faith. The greatest challenge facing Elizabeth on her accession was to unite a country which was polarised by religion, having passed from hard-line Protestantism under Edward VI back to Catholicism with Mary.

Our learned guide on this journey is Dr Lucy Wooding whose masterful new book, Tudor England, gives a rich, detailed vision of the period. Wooding's book is not simply limited to the big political moments but takes the reader right into the lives of ordinary people as well.

Dr Lucy Wooding is Langford Fellow and Tutor in History at Lincoln College, Oxford. She is an expert on Reformation England, its politics, religion and culture, and the author of Henry VIII.

Tudor England by Lucy Wooding is out now.

Show notes

Scene One: 17 November 1558, London. In the early morning, Mary I lies dying at St James's Palace. By evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole, has also died – a momentous day for Catholicism in England.

Scene Two: November 1558, a few days earlier. Princess Elizabeth is at a dinner party at Brocket Hall, with the Count of Feria who has been sent by Philip II (Mary’s husband) to sound out the heir to the throne. He concludes that she is, ‘'She is a very vain and clever woman’, who is, ‘determined to be governed by no one'.

Scene Three: Late 1557, The Works of Sir Thomas More, sometime Lord Chauncellor, wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge are published by the printer William Rastell, who was also More’s nephew.

Memento: The reliquary known as the ‘Tablet de Bourbon’, made by one of the great Parisian goldsmiths and acquired as part of a ransom during the Hundred Years War. Worn by Mary I in the portrait by Hans Eworth.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Dr Lucy Wooding

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1558 fits on our Timeline

This week we are off to see some of the Renaissance masters at work with the acclaimed novelist Damian Dibben.

*

In the early years of the sixteenth century Venice was not only a place of great power it was a site of huge cultural splendour. In particular a new generation of artists were animating the buildings like never before. And unlike many of the other Renaissance painters, the Venetians were not solely obsessed by line and form; they were equally interested in the allure and possibility of colour. 

In this episode (with a short detour to the Sistine Chapel) we set our gaze on a place that is still affectionately known as the Queen of the Adriatic. In doing so we look at two of its great artists as they work with their cobalts and ultramarines. One of them, Titian, is well known to us. The other, Giorgione, or ‘Big George’, is a more elusive character.

Only a small number of Giorgione’s paintings survive today, but they convey his strange and brilliant originality. Art historians have spent centuries trying to make sense of his enigmatic depictions, which are suffused with a misty light that seems to have drifted straight off the lagoon.

Damian Dibben’s novels have been translated into twenty-seven languages and published in over forty countries. His series The History Keepers was an international publishing phenomenon. His new book is The Colour Storm.

Show notes

Scene One: 1510. Titian, the 22 year old Venetian painter paints his 'Man with a Quilted Sleeve.

Scene Two: 1510. Michelangelo paints the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was an incredible feat of artistic brilliance and physical endurance, achieved by a someone who was a true genius but personally difficult and far from pleasant.

Scene Three: October 1510. The death of Giorgione. One of the greatest painters, a vital link in the history of art who would have produced stunning masterpieces had he not died at 33, probably of plague.

Memento: Giorgione’s painting of a knight and his squire, or groom, c.1507

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Damian Dibben

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1510 fits on our Timeline

We start our sixth season with Robert Harris, one of Britain's great contemporary novelists. He takes us back to a tremendously important year in English (and world) history. 1660.

In England the mid seventeenth century was a dramatic and bloody time. It was a age when important questions about the nature of power were posed and the traditions of monarchy were challenged. In 1649 this led to the execution of King Charles I on a cold January day in Whitehall. Almost a century and a half before the French removed Louis XVI, England pioneered a new form of republican society.

This was not destined to last. Oliver Cromwell’s death in September 1658 left the country with a power vacuum. After various alternatives were tested, the decision was finally taken to invite the dead king’s eldest surviving son, Charles, back from Europe to regain the throne for the Stuart family.

Charles II’s entry into London on his birthday, 29 May 1660, was a emotional occasion. But for all the excitement and all the glamour of the year John Evelyn called an ‘Annus Miribilis’, some knotty questions remained. One of the greatest of these was what should be done with the surviving ‘regicides’ – the scores of people who had signed the death warrant of the new king’s father.

This history forms the background to Robert Harris’s exhilarating new novel. In Act of Oblivion he tells the story of a transatlantic manhunt for two of the regicides: the colonels Edward Whalley and William Goffe.

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris is available now.

Show notes

Scene One: 29 May 1660. Charles II returns to London after being exiled and is proclaimed lawful monarch.

Scene Two: 29 August 1660. The Act of Oblivion is passed in Parliament.

Scene Three: 27 July 1660. Colonels Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two regicides, arrive in Boston

Memento: Charles I’s death warrant

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Robert Harris

Production: Maria Nolan

Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours

Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1660 fits on our Timeline

Hello everyone, we're back!

Season Six of Travels Through Time begins with an episode with the Number One Bestselling novelist Robert Harris tomorrow. 

Music: “Love Token” from the album “This Is Us” By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

 

This week we meet an extraordinary couple, whose life-long partnership and dual creativity changed the face of Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement. 

If it’s ever been possible to come up with a philosophy for how to live, William Morris came pretty close. He once said that “The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

It’s a beautiful sentiment and it’s one that makes even more sense when you learn more about his family and the home he created with his wife, Jane. 

Their marriage was complicated and painful at times, but Jane and William Morris built a life together that valued things that were beautiful and useful, people who were generous and creative.

The story of their relationship is told vividly in my guest today, Suzanne Fagence Cooper’s new book How We Might Live: At Home With Jane and William Morris. Suzanne Fagence Cooper is a writer, lecturer and curator, working on 19th and 20th century British art, design and culture. How We Might Live, is published by Quercus. 

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

Show Notes

Scene One: 1862. The birth of May Morris.

Scene Two: 1862. First exhibition for Morris & Co.

Scene Three: 1862. The death of Elizabeth Siddall.

Momento: Gabriel Rossetti's book of poems.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerAce Cultural Tours

Follow us on Twitter@tttpodcast_

Or on Facebook

See where 1862 fits on our Timeline

Load more

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App