January 2015

Dear Members,

Our Spring programme promises much.  On January 20th Professor Dan Stone will speak on the aftermath of the liberation of the Holocaust camps, followed on February 10th by Professor Nigel Saul considering the importance of Magna Carta from its origins until today. On March 17th Dr. Grant Tapsell is addressing the rich pictorial output of the Restoration period as the Monarchy used art to consolidate its authority whilst the emergence of party politics with the Whig-Tory divide generated a massive output of cartoons and other propaganda.

There will now be an additional meeting on April 21st.  Dr. Andrew Blick of Kings College, London will be addressing us on the recent evolution of the British Parliamentary system.  He brings both an academic approach and ’insiders’ knowledge as prior to his academic appointment he worked for various think tanks and as an advisor within No. 10.  Since 2010 he has been a research fellow to the first ever parliamentary inquiry into the possibility of introducing a written constitution for the U.K. being carried out by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.  Dr. Blick is publishing a major work on the need for constitutional reform to be titled Beyond Magna Carta, a reminder of just how central the role of the original Magna Carta remains in analysis of the constitution. Please add this date April 21st to your diaries.

Tying in with this talk is one of our branch excursions-a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament on Saturday April 25th at 2pm meeting at Parliament shortly before that time.  The cost will be £19 pp. Tony Pratt is organizing this event: further details will be available at our regular meetings.  Places are limited so please contact Tony ASAP. (Email tonypratt99@hotmail.com)

Our second excursion on Sunday May 24th will be one of the very popular walks series led by Nigel Saul, tel 01784 435630; email: n.saul@rhul.ac.uk to Odiham, a virtually undiscovered gem, a small town of real character, unspoiled, and rich in vernacular architecture.  Outside the town are the ruins of King John’s Castle, which actually provide us with our excuse for visiting Odiham in 2015, for it was from Odiham castle that, at the end of May 1215 King John set off to Windsor to begin the negotiating process that ended with the sealing of the Charter at Runnymede two weeks later. 
Unfortunately we will not be able to visit the castle as a group because of the very limited car parking nearby. However, individual members can go there separately.  We will confine ourselves to the centre of the town, which is rewarding enough in itself.  We will meet at the eastern (the far end) of the High St, by an easily noticeable decorative lamppost just beyond the Post Office, at 11 am.

As well as using email to contact our members, we are now also using Twitter to share additional information about our programme as well as details of other local historical talks. If you use Twitter, please follow us at @HAWestSurrey and help to publicise the branch.  Our branch website www.historicalassociationsurrey.com

Yours sincerely,          


Chris Mitchinson (Chairman)                                                                   

July 2014


Dear Members,


The 2013-4 programme attracted good audiences - on one occasion 120 attendees.  The two excursions - Christ's Hospital and Wallingford were both fascinating.  I was amazed at the central role Wallingford has played in English history.  Our thanks go to Professor Nigel Saul for organizing such an excellent day.  In future there will be a dedicated mobile number in case of members being delayed/lost and wanting to find the group. The bitter fruit of experience... Apologies to those impacted.


We hope that the 2014-5 programme, enclosed with this newsletter, will appeal to the membership.  All lectures will take place at St. Nicholas’s Hall, Guildford GU2 4AW and will start at 7.30 pm.  The only variation to this is that the AGM will be held starting at 7 pm before the first lecture on 23rd September.  I will be posting a short bibliography on the West Surrey Branch website  - it is there for your use, but is in no way 'demanded reading'.


Dr. Russ Foster will open our programme.  He was the first academic to work on the Wellington Papers after they were deposited at the University of Southampton.  A book stemming from the resultant doctorate was published in 1990.  Since then he has contributed over 30 articles to various journals and in 2014 published “Wellington and Waterloo- The Duke, the Battle and Posterity: 1815-2015”.  His talk looks not only at the event and the man but how perceptions of both have changed over the decades.


Our second lecture on 14th October will be by Dr Robert Saunders.  Both in the 1832 Reform Act debate and in the Chartist movement, much of the energy of popular radicalism came from a sense of religious mission.  There was also, however, a religious case against reform.  Dr Saunders explores this religious dimension to the conflict surrounding Chartism, which has all too often been treated as a purely political affair.


Professor Jonathan Phillipswill be our guest on 18th November.  His topic is Saladin's rise to power, his capture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, his conflict with Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade, and also the preservation and evolution of his image through the centuries, bringing the story right down to the present day.


On 2nd December we are delighted to welcome Mike Simpson, the grandson of George Simpson, who was the meteorologist on the Terra Nova Expedition 1910-3 during which Captain Scott and his pole party perished. Simpson was in charge of the main base during Scott's pole attempt.  Mike brings the benefits of the private family knowledge of these tragic events and some of the original Ponting photographs.


In 2015 we can look forward to Professor Dan Stone on Rethinking Liberation: The End of the Holocaust?”; Professor Nigel Saul on “Magna Carta” and Dr. Grant Tapsell on “The Visual Culture of Politics in Restoration England”.


The annual cost of Associate Membership is £12.  An application form for this is attached. Could you please return this, together with your payment, to Frank Flower, ‘Ifiori’, 1 Brynford Close, Horsell, Woking, GU21 4DW.  We look forward to another year of interesting topics.


Yours sincerely,


Chris Mitchinson (Chairman)                                                                                                      


 January 2014.

Dear Members,


The four lectures in the first half of our 2013-4 programme have all been very well attended and provided stimulating evenings. The next speaker on January 14 is Dr. Yasmin Khan.  Her book The Great Partition-the making of India and Pakistan, published in 2008, was critically acclaimed.  Her recent researches have focused on the British in India during World War 2 and the inability of the Imperial Authorities to control the growing demand for independence.  Her talk will cover both topics.


February sees Dr. Tom Buchanan addressing the topic of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War.  At a time when young Britons are again actively engaged in similar struggles in the Islamic World, it is proper that we look back on a generation of young idealists who were prepared to fight and die in a war that they saw as ‘Freedom’s Battle.’  Our lecture programme concludes in March with Prof. Sarah Foot, the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford.   She will doubtlessly shed illumination on AEthalstan, an Anglo-Saxon king, who a the tenth century chronicler, deemed the most powerful ruler in Britain since the Romans, observing that in his days ‘the fields of Britain were consolidated into one’. One member who heard her speak at another Historical Association venue gave her a rave review-not to be missed!


We have two other events.  The first is a guided tour of the historic Christ’s Hospital school, near Horsham, on the morning of Thursday 17th April 2014 –starting at 10 am and finishing at 12.15 pm.  The tour takes in the exceptional collection of paintings (including a massive 87 foot long Verrio), the buildings, grounds and finally the museum for a talk.  Full details will be provided at forthcoming meetings and on the branch website http://www.historicalassociationsurrey.com.  If you would like to come please let the Secretary know, as there is a limit on numbers.


The second event is one of the very popular walks led by Prof. Nigel Saul.  This year the venue is the Anglo-Saxon borough of Wallingford, a place rich in history and full of character.  The walk will last about an-hour-and-a-half to two hours, taking in the main streets of the town and the grounds and motte of the ancient castle, from which magnificent views are obtained over the town centre and surrounding country.  The date is Sunday 11th May. Full details can be found at http://www.historicalassociationsurrey.com/Wallinford.html


Recent changes to the committee include the departure of Gillian David, who has found that work commitments have become too great.  We thank her for the guidance she has provided especially on school curricula.  Is there another teacher who can pick up Gillian’s role?  Volunteers please!  We are delighted to welcome Matthew Smith to the committee.


Yours sincerely,



Chris Mitchinson (Chairman)


August 2013


Dear Members,

The ‘new’ committee has survived its first year in office with back up from the old hands, especially Graham and Jane.  We hope that the 2012-3 programme was stimulating.  We were pleased that the meetings were so well attended.  Enclosed with this newsletter is our 2013-4 programme.  All lectures will take place at St. Nicholas’s Hall and will start at 7-30pm. The only variation to this is that the AGM will be held starting at 7 pm, before the first lecture on September 24th.


The first speaker in September is Professor Jackie Eales, the current President of the Historical Association.  In her first Presidential year, she lectured at many branches all over the country and we are very pleased to welcome her to West Surrey.  Professor Eales focuses on the manner in which different historians have treated Elizabeth 1st, in an effort to look behind the carefully constructed official public image that was presented to her subjects and reveal some measure of the individual behind the mask.


Our second lecture on October 15th will be Emeritus Professor Anne Duggan who will address us on ‘Thomas Becket: Traitor, Martyr, Saint?’  Professor Duggan is acknowledged as the expert on Thomas Becket, a character who has intrigued many over many generations. Was he a traitor deserving death or a saint martyred for his faith?


Dr. Jason Peacey will be the speaker on November 12th.  His topic is how the clash of conflicting political and religious viewpoints that were held at the time of the English Civil War led to a huge flood of printed documents as all parties sought to sway opinion.  The battle of the printing presses was seen as a vital element in the battle for hearts and minds. Dr Peacey examines this broader debate through a case study of a man with strong Surrey connections.


Our December 3rd lecturer is Professor Mary Fulbrook, who will speak about her research that was published earlier this year entitled ‘A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust.’  Professor Fulbrook has examined in detail the burgomaster of a small town near Auschwitz to gain insight into his world and how those who considered themselves ‘decent people’ acted as officials in the Nazi regime.


2014 topics will include the Indian sub-continent in the lead up to Independence and Partition, the Spanish Civil War and at a time when the concept of a united Britain is under question; we look back to AEthelstan, a remarkable ruler who has some claim to be recognized as the first King of Britain.


The annual cost of Associate Membership has been raised to £12.  An application form for this is enclosed. Could you please return this, together with your payment, to Frank Flower, ‘Ifiori’, 1, Brynford Close, Horsell, Woking, Surrey, GU21 4DW, or bring it to September’s meeting.  We look forward to another year of interesting topics.



Yours sincerely,




Chris Mitchinson (Chairman)