Don offers a repertoire of entertaining and informative single talks, including the following:
Boudicca of the Iceni
Boudicca’s revolt in AD61 nearly destroyed Roman rule in Britain. Who was she? Why did she defy the might of Rome what led to the failure of the Revolt? Could she have changed our history? What happened to elements of the Ninth Legion stationed at Longthorpe?
He’s our greatest folk hero-but did he even really exist? Looking beyond the myth for the real, historical Arthur; the Dark Age warrior whose horsemen stopped the advance of Saxon invaders for more than a generation.
created by the Treaty of Wedmore between Alfred the Great and the Great Army was the area of east and north England between the rivers Thames and Tees settled by the Danes in the ninth century. Within its bounds Danish law, customs and language prevailed and its linguistic influence is still apparent today.
Hereward the Wake
Hereward the ‘exile’ as he should correctly be known led the last resistance to the Norman Conquest, including the burning of Peterborough. Was he the heroic patriot depicted in literature or an opportunistic robber?
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Wife to two kings and mother to two more, Eleanor of Aquitaine would have been remarkable individual in any age, the fact that she, a woman, achieved all she did in twelfth century Europe is perhaps more remarkable still and explains her legendary reputation. Her forcefulness, ability, beauty and charm enabled her as a patron of the arts, as a politician and a mother to exercise a pervasive influence for more than six decades.
King John and Magna Carta
Was King John as bad as he has been portrayed or did he simply get a bad press? What led to the barons’ rebellion and the invasion by the French? What was Magna Carta and why is it still seen as important?
The Knights Templar
Forget the Da Vinci Code. What were the origins of this order of warrior monks? How did they come to be the first uniformed standing army in the western world and pioneers of international banking? Why were they destroyed by the King of France?
The Black Death
'The Great Mortality' slew some third of the population of Europe in a little more than three years. Where did it come from and how did it spread? Why did this plague prove so deadly and what was its impact on England and the wider medieval
Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth Field Revisited
Following the archaeological survey which pinpointed the exact location of the battlefield, traditional explanations have had to be rethought. What really happened? Given the momentous outcome of the event in the history of England, why are there so few contemporary accounts of the day?
Why was Richard defeated? Numbers and artillery were to prove less important than a combination of treachery, tactics and the uncommitted. Both Richard III and the battle in which he fell are still the subject of contentious debate.
Inside the Medieval Mind
Uncover the thoughts, superstitions and beliefs of Medieval people. The term Medieval is an invention of the Renaissance and today its use often has bad connotations. Those living during this period did not think of themselves as living in the Middle Ages and were perhaps not so different from ourselves.
Leonardo Da Vinci
The art, inventions and life of one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance and of all history.
Katherine of Aragon
The first of Henry VIII’s six wives, whose divorce led to Henry’s break with Rome. While treated shabbily by her father in law, Henry VII in her early years and later by her ‘husband’ she was to be Queen for 24 years, a longer period than that of her five successors combined. Why was Katherine buried in Peterborough Cathedral?
Henry VIII and the Reformation
Why did Henry VIII make himself Supreme Head of the Church in England and precipitate the break with Rome, when he still considered himself a Catholic? The Henrican Reformation was essentially political, yet set in train a series of events which led to the establishment of a Protestant Church of England. How did Peterborough Abbey survive the Dissolution of the monasteries unlike so many religious foundations?
Mary Queen of Scots
Martyr or fool? Queen of both Scotland and France, married three times, mother to the future king of Great Britain James I&VI, deposed by her own subjects and imprisoned and later executed by her cousin Elizabeth I of England; Mary’s life was beset by tragedy.
However, perhaps by the manner of her death she fulfilled her own motto, ‘In my end is my beginning.’ Why was Mary buried in Peterborough Cathedral and later reburied at Westminster?
While widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist (despite the controversy surrounding the authorship of the works attributed to him) little is known about the man. In order to better understand who William Shakespeare was, it is necessary to place his life and works in the context of the times in which he lived
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605
That heavy and doleful tragedy which is commonly called The Powder Treason. Why do we celebrate the demise of Guy Fawkes every 5th November? Who were the plotters and what were their aims? Could the plot have ever succeeded? Why does the plot have such a hold on our imagination? What was the truth behind the legend?
Civil War and Restoration Peterborough
Peterborough like the rest of Britain was plunged into the conflict between King and Parliament in which the world was turned upside down. What happened when Oliver Cromwell came to Peterborough? How was the Restoration of Charles II commemorated? What was the impact on the town of the arrival of the Plague in 1666?
The Prince Regent
First as Prince of Wales, then Regent and lastly as King, George IV was frequently ridiculed by his contemporaries. His Regency and reign are justly considered to be one of the high points of English social and cultural life as well as one of the most extravagant and outrageous eras of our history. Scandals, insanity and posh pavilions; just part of the Regency story.
Burke and Hare and the Body Snatchers
Discover the true story behind the infamous Burke and Hare, who while not actually body snatchers, are always associated with the name. The fear of the body snatchers was very real and extraordinary measures were taken to counter their trade: on one occasion resulting in a two hour gun battle. Why did the medical profession condone the practice? How was it brought to an end, or has it? What happened when the body snatchers came to Peterborough?
The Railway Manias
During the 1830’s and 1840’s Britain was gripped by two ‘Railway Manias’ driven by a mixture of vision and greed which saw fortunes made and lost. ‘The press supported the mania: the government sanctioned it: the peopled paid for it. Railways were at once a fashion, and frenzy. England was mapped out for the iron roads’ (A writer of 1851). How did the railway come to Peterborough?
William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement
Morris, Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites. William Morris’ life and work was to influence the Arts & Crafts Movement’s spirit and ethos, raising the status of the applied arts and his Socialism gave a vision of a free and equal society in which art should be a part of everyone’s life.
was not only the greatest novelist of his age, but emerged as a champion of the poor. What experiences in his early life shaped his character? How did his writings help change public opinion and aid the course of reform?
The Great Stink
Victorian public health reform. How did the Great Stink of 1858 lead to the construction of London’s sewerage system (much of which survives today) and what was its contribution to public health?
The Causes of World War One
With the approach of the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, the question remains why did the various European powers enter into the war which became a global conflict that was to destroy much of the old order? What part was played by the system of alliances and did they make war inevitable? Why did railway timetables prove to be a critical factor?
The Old Contemptibles The story of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.)
The 'contemptible little army' sent to defend Belgium at the outbreak of war in 1914. How did Haldane’s reforms lead to the creation of this small professional army which against great odds and at a heavy cost halted the advance of the Kaiser’s armies and denied them victory?
Edith Cavell - 'Patriotism is not enough'
There are numerous places throughout the world with hospitals, car parks roads and even a mountain named after Edith Cavell, many of which have the most tenuous link with her. How did this come about? Why did a nurse from Norfolk become a national, even international icon? How does the legend compare with the history?
The Battle of Britain and Operation Sea-lion
What were Hitler’s plans for the invasion of Britain in 1940? Could they have succeeded? How did the British plan to repel the invaders? How did Churchill use the invasion threat and why did Hitler embark on a course of action to which there were only two outcomes, either of which was bound to lead to his ultimate downfall.
What were the plans for Peterborough in the event of invasion and why had Herman Goering chosen Burghley House to be his H.Q.?