Chalke Valley History Festival 2016

For two days during Enrichment Week, the History Department took 25 lower sixth history students to the Chalke Valley History Festival. Set in a beautiful valley in Wiltshire, this “Glastonbury for History geeks” brings together leading historians, academics from top universities, biographers and journalists to talk on a wide variety of different subjects.

The trip commenced with a tour around the captivating Salisbury Cathedral. Home to one of only four original copies of the Magna Carta, it was incredible to see this document which is widely considered to be one of the first rallying cries against the arbitrary use of monarchical power. The group then spent the early evening at the Festival, nestled in a beautiful and surprisingly remote valley. Despite the torrential rain, we enjoyed two insightful lectures from the prominent historians Nicholas Stargardt (on the German experience of World War Two) and Christopher Tyerman (on the surprising sophistication of medieval Crusade planning).

Following this, we enjoyed a relaxed dinner and a walk through the beautiful town of Salisbury to Sarum College in the Cathedral Close where we were staying. The following morning, we returned to the festival and started the day off with an interactive demonstration of life in the Western Front trenches during the First World War. We were then given a choice of a variety of lectures to attend throughout the day, ranging from ‘History’s Greatest Empires’ to ‘WWI and its link with International relations today’, and ‘17th century witchcraft’.

At the end of each talk, the audience was encouraged to take part in a question and answer session. These were particularly interesting as it gave us the opportunity to challenge eminent and renowned Historians, rather than simply read their books. Throughout the site we encountered various re-enactments and we particularly enjoyed the realistic depiction of Tudor society, as it was striking to see such a famous period of History brought to life.

We all found the festival to be a great opportunity to further our historical interest and knowledge both in areas that we have previously studied and also topics which we had never been previously exposed too. We highly recommend this trip to all History students next year as it was a tremendous experience; we would all love to go again.

By Olivia Nevill and Isabelle Proctor

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