History Talking: Series 1

BL MS Royal 4 E.iii, fol.146r
Lancelot in conversation with a lady who is holding a small black and white dog. British Library MS. Royal 4 E.iii, fol. 146r.

History Talking: Series 1

Presented by Dr Ruth Salter, produced by Dr Richard Blakemore.

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

by Beth Rebisz

As Autumn term slowly draws to a close, we thought it would be a great opportunity to take a look back at some of the highlights of this term. From public lectures to news appearances, from book launches to award-winning, from student socials to graduation… it’s safe to say it’s been one busy term!

Take a look below to see some of our fantastic achievements:



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And a special congratulation also to all students who graduated today, a brilliant collection of results!

Well done to everyone for their hard work, it’s been an excellent term!

We hope everyone has a lovely, relaxed Christmas break and we’ll see you all in the New Year.

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7th December 1941: a date which will live in infamy

by Dafydd Townley

It is not an overstatement to say that the events of December 7th, 1941, changed not just the world of the time, but also shaped the world in which we live today. The attack by Imperial Japanese aircraft on the United States Navy in Pearl Harbor shocked the entire world. The attack would spur the United States into declaring war on Japan, and eventually joining the conflict in Europe that had been raging since September 1939. Just as significantly, the attack was a turning point in American foreign policy, as the US moved from an isolationist perspective to one of intervention, and contributed to the development of modern geopolitics.

Pearl Harbor USS Arizona

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3rd December 1914: Rough weather at sea and the ship’s cat

by Dr Ruth Salter [1]

While many of the dates we’re looking at in this year’s December blog series mark big, noteworthy events which impacted either on the life of a notable individual, or on contemporary society – thus potentially changing the course of history – every day is also marked by countless personal experiences.  For today’s ‘December date’ it is one of these, more personal, experiences which I would like to focus on.

Great-grandad in uniform 1

My great-grandfather, Arthur John Pidgeon


My great-grandfather, Arthur John Pidgeon, was a Petty Officer (1st class) in the merchant navy.  During 1914 he was stationed on HMS Talbot, and one of their main duties was patrolling the Channel.  My family are fortunate enough to still have Arthur’s W/T Signal Log in which he recorded the events of just over a year (1st August 1914 to 22nd August 1915).






The Log is beautifully written in ink, with an entry for each day, and stands as a very personal record of one person, and one ship’s, experience of the first year of World War One.  And while there are references to greater events going on beyond the HMS Talbot, there are also snippets of everyday life at sea.  Today, and later in this series, I will be sharing some specific entries of Arthur’s diary with the blog.

3rd December 1914

Thursday 3rd December 1914

The weather was still rough in the morning but clear overhead.  We had a few showers during the forenoon.  9.30. Prayers & then General Quarters but could not do much with the ship rolling.  The old black cat we had with us used to come around regular for his condensed milk & I never saw him sea sick once.  He used to keep is sea legs very well & would go from mess to mess for his usual bit here & there.  Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder f the day & everyone was glad when time came to turn in once more.


Not a long entry then for 3rd December, but some interesting comments regarding the roughness of the winter’s sea and the ability of the ship’s cat to carry on regardless.  Look out for two more entries from Arthur’s Signal Log later in the series.

Great-grandad with a ship cat (middle)

Arthur John Pidgeon on HMS Sentinel (middle) with other crew members and the ship’s cats


[1] All materials published in this blog post are property of myself and my family unless otherwise stated.

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1st December 1919: ‘Insidious Sexism’, Nancy Astor MP #MeToo

by Dr Jacqui Turner  [1]

On the day that Nancy Astor took her seat in parliament, rather than blog about an anniversary, and inspired by the recent visit of outspoken feminist MP Jess Phillips to the University of Reading, I would like to look back at on a current topic that is daily reported in the press and characterised online by #MeToo.

Astor 1

Nancy Astor via BBC News

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NEW BOOK: Rethinking the Russian Revolution

by Dr Andy Willimott

Matthias Neumann & Andy Willimott,

Rethinking the Russian Revolution as Historical Divide (Routledge, 2017).

Rethinking the Russian Revolution 1

The Russian Revolution of 1917 has often been presented as a complete break with the past, with everything which had gone before swept away, and all aspects of politics, economy, and society reformed and made new. This was certainly the way the Bolsheviks wanted to portray this epochal moment in history. Recently, however, historians of the Russian Revolution have increasingly come to question this view, discovering that Tsarist Russia was much more entangled in the processes of modernisation, and that the new regime contained much more continuity than has previously been acknowledged.


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