Past Talks

The Sound of History

If you are passionate about history and enjoy listening to experts in their field, then the monthly lectures organised by the Open History Society is the place for you. By way of a taster of what is on offer, we invite you to download short audio interviews we have carried out with our guests for you to listen to. If you are already a member of the club, we invite you to listen again to our guests and refresh your memory of our evenings spent in good company.



Dr Wendy Ugolini: “The Experience of the Scottish-Italian Community in the Second World War”          

SONY DSCDr Wendy Ugolini, a lecturer in history at Edinburgh University,  discusses the impact that World War II had on Italian immigrants in Scotland. What were the experiences of  second-generation Scottish-Italians and those who joined the British army? She has published a book on the subject entitled, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’: Italian-Scottish Experience in World War Two.



Dr Jenny Wormald: “Bannockburn: Are battles ever decisive?”         

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJenny Wormald has taught with distinction at Glasgow and Oxford Universities and written several major books on late medieval and early modern Scottish history. Seven hundred years after the great victory won by Robert the Bruce and his army, she reassessed the event and its consequences.




Dr Paul Addison: “Listening to Britain: The Ministry of Information and morale on the home front during the Second World War.”         

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr Paul Addison, the Open History Society’s chairman, has written many acclaimed books on 20th century British history, including The Road to 1945. He talked about the creation of a secret organisation called “Home Intelligence”, set up by the Ministry of Information in 1940. Its remit was initially to assess British morale but later transformed into a way of assessing public concerns, grievances and shortages.



Allan Massie: “Reflections on the Scottish Question in the Year of Scotland’s Historic Referendum.”                     In the unavoidable absence of our usual interviewer, you can connect to a text summary and critique of the occasion here.

Allan Massie

Allan Massie, noted author and journalist, talked about the Scottish Independence Referendum focusing upon the idea that rather than there being a “Scottish Question”, there is a “British Question”. He suggested that it is a sense of loss of “Britishness” as a unifying identity that has led to the quest for Independence.



Dr David Ritchie: “Irish Disturbances: Scotland and the Irish War of Independence.”      

Dr David Ritchie

Dr Ritchie teaches at Edinburgh University and described to David Bytheway perceptions in the early 1920s of a threat to Scotland posed by Sinn Fein and the long-established Irish Catholic immigrant population. Why was  there a wholly false belief that there were 20,00 armed men ready to rise up in Scotland? And why did Sinn Fein encourage the authorities to believe in this fantasy?


Fran Houghton: “Boys Become Men: The post-1945 memoirs of World War II RAF crew members.”         

Fran Houghton is completing her PhD at Edinburgh University where she also runs a workshop on war memories. She talked with David Bytheway about the different perceptions and self-perceptions of the men of Fighter Command and Bomber Command. The former were always viewed as heroes, the latter often struggled to shake off the image of villains because of the strategic bombing of cities like Dresden.



Rosemary Goring : “After Flodden”          Interview with Rosemary Goring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFive centuries after the most disastrous battle in Scotland’s history, the author, literary critic, columnist and Herald books editor, Rosemary Goring, talked to David Bytheway about her acclaimed historical novel After Flodden which came out earlier this year.




Dr David White: “Medical mayhem in the American Civil War?”          Interview with Dr David White

Dr David White is vice-chairman of the Open History Society. He obtained his PhD from Edinburgh University where he taught for a period. He now works as a freelance historical writer.  He spoke with David Bytheway about the preparedness and record of the medical services during the American Civil War. He also reflected  on the advances and  innovations in surgery, hospital design, sanitation and battlefield practices  – but also of the dire failings in disease diagnosis and pharmacology.




Professor Conan Fischer: “France, Germany and the road to European Union: the interwar period”          Interview with Conan Fischer 

Professor Conan Fischer holds a History Chair at St. Andrews University. He has had a series of books published on the rise of the Nazis and other aspects of 20th-century European history. He spoke to David Bytheway about a little-known aspect of interwar relations and attempts to forge European co-operation in era which is usually thought of as one of extreme international hostility and polarisation.



Dr Andrew Sanders on “The Legacy of the Provisional IRA”        Interview with Dr Andrew Sanders

Dr Sanders  is the author of Inside the IRA: Dissident Republicans and the War for Legitimacy, and  co-authored with Ian Wood Times of Troubles:  Britain’s War In Northern Ireland. He is a Research Fellow at the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College, Dublin. Roy Dalglish asked him about the long peace process in Northern Ireland.



Lt Gen Sir Robert Richardson: “My Life as a Soldier”       Interview with Lt. Gen. Sir Robert Richardson

Sir Robert is a former trustee of the Royal Scots Club. He had a distinguished career in the army serving with the Royal Scots in which he was commissioned in 1949. From 1978-80 he was GOC of the British sector in West Berlin and from 1982 to 1985 was GOC of British  forces in Northern Ireland. He told David Bytheway why he chose to become a soldier.



Sarah Ames on Robert Louis Stevenson: “The Foreigner at Home”        Interview with Sarah Ames

Sarah Ames is an Edinburgh University graduate and took a Master’s Degree.  She is now working on her PhD on clubs, secretive communities and secret societies in Stevenson’s works. Her research interests focus on secret societies in Victorian literature and theories of secrecy. She is a research assistant to Edinburgh University’s project for Scottish Writing in the 19th century and teaches undergraduate literature courses at Edinburgh University.  She spoke to David Bytheway about Stevenson.


James Holloway on “Portraying the Nation”, a first-hand account of the revamping of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.           Interview with James Holloway

James Holloway was for 14 years the Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and oversaw its recent transformation.  He is a respected expert on Scottish art and has published widely on it. David Bytheway spoke to him and asked why Scotland needed a national portrait gallery?



Harry Reid on the Scottish Reformation.        Interview with Harry Reid

Harry Reid took a history degree at Oxford, then became a fulltime journalist working for The Scotsman followed by The Glasgow Herald where he was editor until 2001. He has written books on the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Press, Scottish football and the Reformation. He continues to contribute regular items in the national press.



Willis Pickard on Duncan McLaren, the influential but much-neglected 19th-century Scottish Liberal politician.         Interview with Willis Pickard

Willis Pickard is a former editor of the Times Educational Supplement Scotland, and was previously features and books editor of The Scotsman.  He was rector of Aberdeen University from 1988 to 1990.  He is now a trustee of the National Library of Scotland. Having studied history at St Andrews University, he took up the subject again when he retired, and has spent some years researching and writing about Duncan McLaren and 19th-century Scottish history.



Professor Tony Goodman on love, marriage and female authority in medieval Britain.         Interview with Tony Goodman

Tony Goodman is the Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at Edinburgh University. His interests are in social history and the Scottish Borders. He is the author of The World of Marjorie Kempe and The Wars of the Roses.




Dr. Adam Fox on Sir John Sinclair ‘s statistical account of Scotland in the 1790s and earlier printed social surveys.        Interview with Adam Fox

Adam Fox is a Reader in Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh, where he has taught since 1994, specialising in social life and popular culture in Britain between the 16th and 18th centuries. His book, Oral and Literature Culture in England 1500-1700(OUP  2000), examines vernacular culture and folk traditions and the ways in which they were influenced by expanding literacy and print technology. He is  currently co-authoring the volume in the New Oxford History of England series covering the period between the Civil Wars and the Glorious Revolution (provisionally entitled The Age of Revolution: England 1642-89).  He is also researching the broadside ballads printed in Edinburgh in the late 17th and 18th centuries.



Dr. John McGregor on inter-company railway wars in the Scottish Highlands in the late 19th century.         Interview with John McGregor

John McGregor is a recognised authority on railway history, on which he has written a great deal. He taught history at Langside College and was also a tutor for the Open University. John is a longstanding member of the Open History Society.




Nancy Dyer on Elsie Inglis and nursing in WWI.         Interview with Nancy Dyer

Nancy Dyer graduated from the Open University in 1999 aged 70 and has led a very active life.  As well as being an officeholder in the Open History Society, she has also played a major role in the running of the University of the Third Age. She talked to the society on Dr Elsie Inglis who became a doctor in Edinburgh at a time when women were discriminated against by the medical profession.  Before the First World War she set up medical services for the poor of Edinburgh.  When war broke out in 1914 she set up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals which worked behind the front lines in France and Serbia.



Brigadier Iain Gardiner on the Falklands War.        Interview with Iain Gardiner

Ian Gardiner was commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1968. He fought in the Dhofar War in Oman from 1973 to 1975, where he was decorated with the Omani Distinguished Service Medal for Gallantry.  He commanded a rifle company in 45 Commando Royal Marines in the Falklands War in 1982.  From 1994 to 1996 he commanded 40 Commando Royal Marines, which included his fourth operational tour in Northern Ireland. He has also been the Royal Marines Equerry to the Duke of Edinburgh. His final appointment was Secretary to the Military Committee at NATO Headquarters in Brussels where he was involved in the political/strategic direction of the Kosovo conflict. His first book was In the Service of the Sultan, an eye-witness account of the Dhofar War. His second book, The Flatpack Bombers, tells the story of the first strategic bombing raids in history in 1914. His third book, The Yompers,  describes a fighting Royal Marine’s perspective of the Falklands War.


Ian Wood on Eamon de Valera.         Interview with Ian Wood

Ian Wood is a former lecturer in History at Napier University, Edinburgh, and former tutor for the Open University. He is the author of Crimes of Loyalty – A History of the UDA; God, Guns and Ulster – A History of Loyalist Paramilitaries; Scotland and UlsterIreland During the Second World War; Britain, Ireland, and the Second World WarChurchill;  John Wheatley; and most recently, Times of Troubles (co-written with Andrew Sanders). Ian is Speakers’ Convenor of the Open History Society.