Festival talks by Sam Willis


Generously sponsored by

Sam Willis is one of our most exciting, charismatic, young historians. His book on the naval battle of the War of American Independence was a work of brilliant scholarship and in this talk he explains why, although Britain lost the war, the lessons learned helped the Royal Navy dominate the oceans for the next 150 years.

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Suzannah Lipscomb and Sam Willis are offering a very special masterclass: a morning spent debating, discussing, and learning  how to go about being an historian. Also joined by historians Jessie Childs and James Daybell, they’ll range widely – from the general to the specific, thinking about what it means to be different types of historian – of naval history, of social history, of different centuries – and what the challenges and joys are of each. With tips about how to research as well as some of the latest academic thinking, this is a rare chance to spend time with some of the most dynamic and exciting young historians in the country.

12.30pm LUNCH (with wine) INCLUDED

What is the philosophy of History Masterclass?

History is the story of everything that’s ever happened and the study of the human condition through time. The great historian, G.M. Trevelyan, once wrote, ‘if historians neglect to educate the public, if they fail to interest it intelligently in the past, then all their historical learning is useless except insofar as it educates themselves’. History Masterclass therefore exists to put historical knowledge into the public sphere, and deliver a high-calibre experience of learning outside formal education that gives joy and intellectual stimulation.

Each Masterclass is designed to lead you into the the heart of a particular historical topic, period, event or life, and to guide you into the process of thinking historically. By inspiring and educating you about the past, we hope to change the way you think about the past, the present, and, even, yourself. We think this can only be done if we involve you in learning, so our events are designed to do just that.

What is a History Masterclass like?

History Masterclasses are intimate, interactive opportunities to learn about history. Presented by an historian who has been picked for both their expertise and their public-speaking talent, History Masterclasses are intimate – no more than 20 or 30 people, giving lots of opportunity for interaction.

You won’t just be lectured at: there will be talks, but there will always be discussions and workshop-style activities – in fact, as much or as little participant involvement as you like. Each lecture and workshop is specifically tailored to the History Masterclass audience, and the experience lasts for 2 or 3 hours. This is a unique historical experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Every Masterclass delivers an in-depth learning experience in a short space of time, bringing you the best of the past from the best of the present.

Who is History Masterclass for?

Anyone with a passion for history! There are no pre-requisites: you don’t need to have studied history before or know anything about the topic. It is simply for anyone who wants to hear about history in an intimate setting direct from some of the best historians in the country.

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On the back of their hugely popular and successful podcasts, historians Dr Sam Willis and Professor James Daybell will be getting together to talk about two highly topical subjects and their historical context: chalk and valleys. Brimming with titbits and oddities, they will both delight with their depth of discourse and dazzle with their delving into the days of yore.

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