Mea Maxima Culpa

Like most people, I don’t particularly enjoy being proved wrong. But in the particular instance I’m blogging about this week, I’m absolutely delighted to admit that I’ve been well and truly in the wrong – and hope that I’ll be proved even more wrong in the future! In the conclusion of Britannia’s Dragon, I bemoaned the […]

What Writers Can Teach Museum Curators

‘Nothing!’ cries an enraged legion of museum curators, their spectacles quivering with righteous fury. ‘Nothing at all, you idle coffee-addicted scribblers of words that nobody wants to read! Adverbs, in particular.’ But hear me out. In a way, we’re both in the same business. We’re both story tellers. We’re both trying to get ‘ordinary people’ (sic) interested […]

The Birth, Death and Rebirth of a Royal Dockyard

(Cross-posted on my Welsh naval history site , britanniasdragon.com) I spent the weekend in Pembroke Dock, attending the launch events for the bicentenary of the foundation of the Royal Dockyard in 1814. The yard was established to take advantage of the tremendous deep water harbour of Milford Haven, and was intended to be exclusively a […]

Oliver Who?

Apparently there was an ‘American vs British’ hashtag on Twitter recently. I missed the ‘debate’ itself – too many things to do, such as having a life – but according to a summary that I came across, this developed along depressingly predictable lines (guns! teeth! healthcare!). Fortunately, though, there do seem to have been a few […]

Reclaiming the Past

Last Saturday, I attended the annual conference of Morol, the Institute of Welsh Maritime Historical Studies, in Cardiff’s glorious Pierhead building. This proved to be a stimulating and highly convivial affair, although the afternoon session was conducted against the backdrop of an almighty storm which caused flash flooding throughout Cardiff; indeed, the downpour was so […]

Worthy Causes, Part 3: Worthy Causes of the Crimean Kind

A first for Gentlemen and Tarpaulins this week, as I welcome my first ever guest blogger! I’m delighted that bestselling novelist Louise Berridge has provided this post about the Crimean War and the campaign for a new memorial to those who fought and died in it. More guest bloggers to come later in the year, but in […]

Worthy Causes, Part 2

Quite by chance, I came across the news that the ‘Scottish Houses’ museum in Veere, the Netherlands, is on a hit-list of thirty-four properties that the Dutch state intends to sell off as part of its own austerity programme. The museum has launched a fundraising campaign in the hope that it can purchase the historic […]

Worthy Causes, Part 1

In an age of austerity, the list of worthy causes deserving both moral and financial support seems to get longer by the day. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll take a look at a few lesser known ones: not so much in the extremely optimistic hope that a philanthropic billionaire will stumble across these […]

Castles in the Air, Part 1

Castles kicked it all off for me – ‘all’ being the lifelong interest in history, leading ultimately to a career teaching it and a second career writing about it. A visit to Pembroke Castle when I was five years old proved to be the catalyst, and a year or so later, when my parents and […]

The Return of the Thirty Ships, Part 1

In the mid-1670s, [Samuel] Pepys and other members of the administration became increasingly alarmed at the navy’s numerical inferiority to the French and Dutch. In 1665, Charles II’s fleet had contained 102 major ships, compared to 81 Dutch and 36 French; ten years later, the picture had changed alarmingly…[Figures that Pepys presented to Parliament in […]