The History Forum

The History Forum offers online talks by professional historians covering a wide range of topics. Presenters have either published books, taught in academic institutions, or become acknowledged experts in their fields through extensive research and writing. We all have a passion to make history interesting, accessible and, where appropriate, fun.

If you cannot attend the live event, recordings will be available on request for seven days after the event.

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Series 4

£37 for 4 talks
OR £10 individual talk

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£37 for 4 talks

Sunday 10 March, 2024 
7pm (GMT)
Frenemies in Iberia: The Story of Spain v. Portugal
GUEST SPEAKER: Professor David T. Gies

Even before the countries “Spain” and “Portugal” came into existence as national sovereignties (15th century), they were rivals for dominance of the Iberian Peninsula (and, for that matter, of the Western world). Once separate, then united, then separate again, the two countries have had a love/hate relationship with each other for two millennia. Which one became a country first? Which one is the 6th oldest country in Europe? Which one would dominate the sixteenth-century world? What are some of the cultural and political differences that define these two countries? How many languages are spoken on the Iberian Peninsula? Who has better wines? This presentation tells the story of a rivalry that has existed since early modern times.

David T. Gies is Emeritus Commonwealth Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia in the United States. He has published extensively on Spanish history, he has won the University of Virginia Outstanding Teaching Award, and in 2007 he was knighted by HM Juan Carlos, King of Spain, for his achievements. Professor Gies spends much of his retirement as a guest lecturer on educational cruises and on tours of Spain and Portugal with Smithsonian Journeys.

£10 for individual talk

Frenemies in Iberia

Sunday 24 March, 2024  
7pm (GMT)
English Prophets Without Honour: Mother Shipton, Joanna Southcott and John Wroe
SPEAKER: Melanie King

The word ‘prophet’ comes from the Greek pro (‘before) and phétés (speaker). Prophets have performed important political and religious roles throughout history. The Old and New Testaments are filled with them: people who foretell the future, and who warn others against the unfortunate consequences of their actions. Many more prophets have appeared since biblical times, not least in England during the from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. This presentation will look at three of the more eccentric among them, such as Joanna Southcott, who predicted that she would give birth to the Son of God, and John Wroe, a farmer’s son from Yorkshire who claimed that God had instructed him to wander the streets of Bradford, handing out leaflets and baring his buttocks in the name of the Lord. Prophets often spoke truth to power, which meant their lot was by no means always a happy one, often resulting in mockery, tribulations and violent deaths. And these English prophets proved no exception to this tragic rule. 

Join Melanie King, author of Prophets, Seers & Visionaries (Quercus, 2009), as she shares the strange belief systems that ruled the lives of these prophets and their many followers.

£10 for individual talk

The Mock Delivery of Joanna

Sunday 14 April, 2024
7pm (GMT)
After the Gold Rush: My Californian Mining Adventure (140 years too late)
GUEST SPEAKER: Jeremy Burton

News of the discovery of gold in California in 1848 signalled the start of the world’s first gold rush. Within the year of 1849 alone, the new American territory’s population swelled five-fold as eighty thousand ‘Argonauts’ hurried there in the hope of claiming a share of its golden riches. Many more followed, including Jeremy Burton who arrived in California 145 years later hoping to claim his share. Jeremy’s fully-illustrated, entertaining talk is a mixture of ancient and modernAncient being an account of the 1849 gold rush, and modern being that of his adventures in the 1990s prospecting for gold in Venezuela and Colombia, then mining in California.

Jeremy graduated from Durham University with a degree in geology. He then joined the army and served as an officer in the Irish Guards spending two years with the Queen Mother as her equerry. On returning to civilian life he worked as an exploration geologist in South Africa then, on qualifying as a gemologist, as a precious stone dealer in London’s Hatton Garden.


£10 for individual talk

Mining on the Sacramento River

Sunday 28 April, 2024
7pm (GMT)
‘The Drink that Cheers but Doesn’t Intoxicate’: How the English Fell in Love with Tea
SPEAKER: Melanie King

Tea is so adored in England that tea-drinking has become almost synonymous with the English. England even celebrates National Tea Day each year on April 21. However, not everyone embraced tea when it was first introduced as a new drink in the middle of the 1600s. Melanie King, author of Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine (Bodleian Library, 2015), shares some of the sceptical early reactions to tea by people who believed it would, among other things, shrink their testicles, boil their blood, and make women ‘peevish’. On the other hand, tea had ardent supporters such as Dr Samuel Johnston, a ‘hardened and shameless tea drinker’ who claimed his kettle scarcely had time to cool before his next cup was prepared. This presentation will look at why tea was so feared, its effects on the health of the nation during the Industrial Revolution, and why today it is still so embedded in the culture of England.

£10 for individual talk

drinking tea
Bodleian Library Publishing

This event is sponsored by Bodleian Library Publishing.