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The National Archives Podcast Series

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Listen to talks, lectures and other events presented by The National Archives of the United Kingdom.

Listen to talks, lectures and other events presented by The National Archives of the United Kingdom.
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Listen to talks, lectures and other events presented by The National Archives of the United Kingdom.




On the trail of Klaus Fuchs, atomic spy

Arguably the most important ‘atomic’ spy of the 20th century, Klaus Fuchs was a German physicist who worked on the British and US-led atomic projects of the Cold War era. In 1950, Fuchs was caught passing vital secrets to the Soviet Union and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. Our exhibition curator Mark Dunton delves into Security Service files in our collection to uncover how the authorities managed to unmask Fuchs and secure his confession, and reveals a fascinating local connection...


The legacy of secrecy: Experiences from the Stasi Records Archive

The East German Stasi had the reputation of being one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies ever to have existed, as they forced their methods for collecting information on their citizens. Thirty years after German citizens regained control from the Stasi in 1990, Dagmar Hovestädt – Head of Press at the Stasi Records Archive – explores this controversial corner of history. She explains also just how the Stasi Archive today manages its wealth of top...


Security Service file release September 2019

Professor Christopher Andrew, formerly official historian of MI5 and author of 'The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5', introduces key files from the release of Security Service files to The National Archives in September 2019.


Lawrence, of Arabia and beyond

T E Lawrence’s role in the First World War is best remembered as that of a young, dashing officer leading the Arab Revolt in white billowing robes. This talk by The National Archives’ Overseas Records Specialist, Dr Juliette Desplat, looks beyond hero worship, at lesser-known aspects of Lawrence’s war – and some of his failures.


Culture Clash? Pop in a royal park

Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones gave a concert in Hyde Park that turned into a memorial to founding member Brian Jones. It was an event that passed into legend. But back in 1968, when Peter Jenner, manager of Pink Floyd, wrote to the authorities asking for permission to hold a concert in Hyde Park, he received a negative reply, which he described as ‘crusty’. So how did it come to pass that a whole series of pop concerts was held in this royal park between 1968 and 1969? Find out in...


Summer Lecture Series 2019: Information at War – the Ministry of Information, 1936-1946

The Ministry of Information was established by a government which recognised that the understanding and morale of the civilian population in the UK – and elsewhere – was critical to a successful outcome. To this end the Ministry used every form of communication available to it, including newspapers, comics, radio, films, even model aeroplane kits. Join Professor Simon Eliot, Professor Emeritus of the History of the Book, University of London, as he explores the difficult early years of the...


The scandalous case of John Vassall

In 1962, while working as a clerk in the British Embassy in Moscow, homosexual civil servant John Vassall was caught in a ‘honey trap’ sprung by the Soviet Secret Service. He was blackmailed into passing secrets to the Soviet Union and as a result sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment for espionage. Our contemporary records specialist Mark Dunton delves deeper into this scandal – one of a series that rocked the Macmillan government in the early 1960s, feeding into a national obsession with...


The Cold War and UFOs

There is more to the Ministry of Defence UFO files than reports on strange sightings in the sky. They provide insight into the public’s perception of the Cold War and technological advances, as well as extra-terrestrial life, through an increase in sci-fi-related television, publications, and media reporting. In this podcast, recorded as part of The National Archives’ Cold War season, Keith Mitchell, a specialist in our UFO records, delves into this fascinating topic.


The personal story of Holocaust survivor John Dobai

John Dobai was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1934. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, John delivered a talk at The National Archives on 25 January 2019 about his personal story and the plight of Hungarian Jews.


Big Ideas Series: Entity disambiguation in digital cultural heritage

To enable people to explore a digital collection, the platform that hosts that collection needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the information it is presenting. However, the level and quality of assistance that can be provided to a user by a computer is largely dependent on the amount of information that the system has about the collection. While such information can be provided by a process of manually tagging and annotating archive contents, this can be expensive, time-consuming...


Big Ideas Series: The role of archives in addressing refugee crises

This presentation provides an overview of a project called ‘Records and ICT at the Boundaries of the State: Refugee Needs, Rights and Uses’ which looks at the ways in which archivists in affected countries might use digital systems design to identify, protect and certify the records of refugees. It’s presented by Anne Gilliland (UCLA Center for Information as Evidence, University of California) and James Lowry (Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies, University of Liverpool). Our...


The Annual Digital Lecture: Semantic Capital: what it is and how to protect it

In this talk Luciano Floridi presents new research on ‘semantic capital’, which he defines as the capital of ideas, knowledge, meaning and culture, and how it can be protected and fostered by the digital. What may digital ethics do to ensure its care, protection, and development? Luciano Floridi is Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, where he directs the Digital Ethics Lab (DELab) of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also Faculty Fellow of the...


Big Ideas Series: Archives and Linked Data

Is linked data an appropriate technology for implementing an archive’s catalogue? Dr Jean-Luc Cochard from the Swiss Federal Archives presents the results of two studies conducted to explore the potential of linked data in supporting archival information systems. The Big Ideas talks series is supported by the Friends of The National Archives.


West Africa and the First World War

The First World War had a great impact on West Africa, as Britain ordered the invasion of German colonies in Cameroon and Togoland, using its own colonies as base. The West African Frontier Force, drawn from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Gambia played a key role in the campaign. War had also had a great impact on the civilian population, as the British drew off workers and resources. How did African soldiers experience the campaign, and what did the war mean for West African societies as...


Big Ideas Series: Datafication, Distribution and the Future of Archival Science in the Age of Homo Deus

Victoria Lemieux examines how we can ensure and establish authenticity in a world of increasing datafication of records. Where and how do we create, find and preserve records and the archives in an increasingly distributed world? Will the preservation of human history and human collective memory be the main concern of archival science in the age of AI, robotics and, possibly, post-humanity as we know it? Dr. Victoria Lemieux is an Associate Professor of Archival Science at the University of...


UFO files at The National Archives

Originally set up at the request of Winston Churchill, the Ministry of Defence’s UFO Desk ran for over 60 years, collating mysterious sightings and records of strange objects in the sky. In this talk, Dr David Clarke, Principal Lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, discusses the remarkable stories behind some of the images from his book, ‘UFO Drawings from The National Archives’.


Suffrage 100: Did militancy help or hinder the fight for the franchise?

By 1912, militancy associated with the Suffragette movement hit its peak, with regular arson attacks, window-smashing campaigns and targeting of MP’s houses. In retrospect, these tactics are often what the movement is famed for. But did they help or hinder the cause? Hear from Dr. Fern Riddell (BBC’s Suffragettes Forever!) and Professor Krista Cowman (University of Lincoln). Due to technical issues, we unfortunately were not able to capture Elizabeth Crawford’s participation in this...


Big Ideas Series: Artistic Practice and the Archive

In this seminar, Professor Andrew Prescott explores the ways in which artistic practice can help us re-imagine the archive and the contents of the collections they hold. Drawing on the work of different contemporary artists, Professor Prescott argues that new technologies enable us to rethink the shape, structure, and character of the records we collect. Professor Andrew Prescott is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow and Theme Leader Fellow for the Arts and...


Digital Archives of the Future

To mark forty years since The National Archives moved to Kew, our digital director John Sheridan discusses the challenges that archives will face in the future. John is currently leading efforts to transfer our digital offer to become an archive that is digital by instinct and design.


Reformation on the Record: Suzannah Lipscomb on Henry VIII and the break with Rome

Reformation on the Record was a two-day conference which brought together research using original records of Church and State from our collection to explore this period of religious, social and economic turmoil. In this talk, historian, broadcaster and award-winning academic Dr Suzannah Lipscomb explores one of the fundamental turning points of the 16th century Reformation: Henry VIII's separation from the Roman Catholic Church.