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 […]

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 […]

Orkney and Shetland Road Trip, Part 5

On one level, Orkney has more heritage than it knows what to do with. Great monuments that would be major tourist attractions in the south of England sit in remote fields, virtually unknown: ‘oh look, that big mound must be yet another Neolithic tomb / ho hum, yet another virtually intact World War II gun […]

Orkney and Shetland Road Trip, Part 4

Shetland has less naval heritage than Orkney, but it still has a substantial amount. During the 17th century, the islands were of vital economic importance – but to the Dutch, not the British. Vast Dutch herring fleets regularly sheltered at Bressay Sound, trading with the local people and contributing to the rise of Lerwick at […]

Orkney and Shetland Road Trip, Part 3

Transcript of a meeting held at the offices of Blandshire County Council.  Present: Councillor Gordon Scrote, chairman of Health and Safety committee; Inspector Robert Brent, Blandshire Police public order representative; and a large bearded Viking wearing furs, armour and a winged helmet, wielding a battleaxe, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Brian Blessed in ‘Flash […]

Orkney and Shetland Road Trip, Part 2

A terrific day of naval heritage, stunning scenery and very high winds on the Orkney island of Hoy! The ferry deposited us at Lyness, which from 1917 was the Royal Navy’s principal base for the Scapa Flow anchorage, home to the Grand Fleet in the First World War and the Home Fleet in the Second. […]

Orkney and Shetland Road Trip, Part 1

As promised, this is the first of a series of short blogs from our week on the Orkney Islands (with a detour to Shetland for the Up Helly Aa festival), concentrating on the naval and 16th/17th century historical aspects. Despite the best efforts of the British winter, we both made it to Orkney at just […]

The Rise of Historyism

It was a very bad week for politicians and History. Or, to be exact, it was a bad week for History because of politicians’ inability to stop distorting it to serve their own ends. Take David Cameron’s big speech to the Conservative conference, for example. ‘This is the country that … defeated the Nazis…and fought […]