HistFest 2022

Join us online or in-person from 9th to 10th April at the British Library for a weekend of learning and laughter as we explore fascinating new histories. From Ancient Persia and the history of science to the life of Mary Seacole and the Kingdom of Benin, plus much more!

Weekend Pass (£50 in-person, £25 online / concessions)

Saturday Pass (£30 in-person, £15 online / concessions)

Sunday Pass (£30 in-person, £15 online / concessions)


11AM – Persia: Great Kings and the Palace of Flowers

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

In this fascinating event, broadcaster, comedian and author Shaparak Khorsandi discusses the sweeping history of Persia with historian Professor Lloyd Llewellyn Jones and historical novelist Victoria Princewill. From unparalleled grandeur of the ancient courts of the Persian Empire to the 1890s court of the Iranian Shah during a precarious time of foreign interference and dynastic crises.

1PM – Army Girls and the Women Who Went to War

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

In this unmissable event, bestselling authors Dr Tessa Dunlop (Army Girls) and Duncan Barrett (The Girls Who Went to War) are joined by Bletchley Park veteran Betty Webb MBE, 98, to explore the rich history of women took an active role in WW2. Betty holds the Légion d’Honneur, and was part of the Auxiliary Territorial Service alongside a young HRH Princess Elizabeth.

3PM – The House of Dudley

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

Each Tudor monarch made their name with a Dudley by their side – or by crushing one beneath their feet. The Dudleys thrived at the court of Henry VII, but were sacrificed to the popularity of Henry VIII. Rising to prominence in the reign of Edward VI, the Dudleys lost it all by advancing Jane Grey to the throne over Mary I. Under Elizabeth I, the family were once again at the centre of power, and would do anything to remain there. What was it that caused this family to keep rising so high and falling so low? Dr Joanne Paul discusses the history behind her hotly anticipated new book The House of Dudley with Dr Wanda Wyporska.

5PM – Horizons: A Global History of Science

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

We are told that modern science was invented in Europe, the product of great minds like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. But this is wrong. Science is not, and has never been, a uniquely European endeavour. In this radical retelling of the history of science, Dr James Poskett challenges the Eurocentric narrative. Copernicus relied on mathematical techniques borrowed from Arabic and Persian texts. When Newton set out the laws of motion, he relied on astronomical observations made in Asia and Africa. When Darwin was writing On the Origin of Species, he consulted a sixteenth-century Chinese encyclopaedia.


11AM – In Search of Mary Seacole

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

Mary Seacole came to England in the 1850s and volunteered to help out during the Crimean War, but her services were turned down. Instead, she financed her own expedition and earned a reputation as a nurse. Popularly known as ‘Mother Seacole’, she became the most famous Black celebrity of her generation – an extraordinary achievement in Victorian Britain. For nearly twenty years, critically acclaimed historian Dr Helen Rappaport has been piecing together the extraordinary life of Mary Seacole, culminating in a forthcoming biography In Search of Mary Seacole. In this riveting talk, she shares the remarkable story with historian, Dr Wanda Wyporska. From the truth about Seacole’s personal life to her ‘rivalry’ with Florence Nightingale, along with much more besides.

1PM – City of Tears: The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

On 24 August 1592, a few days after the wedding of Charles IX’s sister Margaret to the protestant Henry of Navarre, an unprecedented wave of targeted violence erupted in the streets of Paris as mobs of Catholics murdered thousands of Huguenots. The bloodshed lasted weeks as it spread across France. It is known to history as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In her latest novel, The City of Tears, award-winning author Kate Mosse explores the devastating history of this period through the lens of the Joubert family. In this fascinating talk, she speaks to historian of the French Wars of Religion Dr Sophie Nicholls about the real history behind this most terrible of events.

3PM – Blood and Bronze: The Kingdom of Benin

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

In this important event, we look at the history of the Benin Bronzes and the worlds in which they were first created and then stolen. Chaired by journalist Jason Okundaye, historian Luke Pepera details the Kingdom of Benin (now modern Nigeria) during medieval and early modern period, a place where thousands of beautiful bronze sculptures adorned the Palace of Benin. Then, Paddy Docherty draws on research from his searing new book, Blood and Bronze, to tell the harrowing story of the 1897 sacking of Benin by the British and looting of the Bronzes.

5PM – Hell: The Devil in the Detail

Individual Ticket (£10 in-person, £5 online)

From the beginning of time, humans have been fascinating by ideas of afterlife, good and evil – from Hades and the Underworld to Abrahamic beliefs in Satan, Shayṭān, Hell and Jahannam. In our final event of HistFest 2022, medieval historian Dr Emma Wells and journalist Shafi Musaddique explore the myriad ways the devil has been represented throughout history.