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The National Archives Podcast Series

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

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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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.

1hr 11mins

19 Feb 2019

Rank #1

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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 or even infeasible if the collection is too large.This talk will explore the challenges involved in the automatic identification and disambiguation of entities within digital cultural heritage collections.Seamus Lawless is Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin.Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.


23 Jul 2018

Rank #2

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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 spy culture at the time. This podcast was recorded as part of The National Archives’ Cold War season, a programme of events to coincide with the exhibition, ‘Protect and Survive: Britain’s Cold War Revealed’.

1hr 5mins

23 May 2019

Rank #3

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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.


23 May 2019

Rank #4

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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 this talk with Contemporary Records Specialist Mark Dunton.


23 Aug 2019

Rank #5

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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 Ministry and its bid to win public confidence. This talk is part of The National Archives’ Summer Lecture Series, exploring the theme ‘State and Society: Cultures of Communication’.


7 Aug 2019

Rank #6

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The Fall of Wolsey

490 years ago Thomas Wolsey – King Henry VIII’s former favourite – fell from grace following his failure to secure the king a divorce. This talk by Daniel Gosling examines the records held at The National Archives which detail this fall – from records relating to Wolsey’s failure to grant Henry an annulment, to the legal processes which sealed his fate.


20 Nov 2019

Rank #7

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How James Bond won the Cold War for Britain

Charlie Higson, author of the best-selling Young Bond books, discusses the genesis of 007 – James Bond, Ian Fleming’s life in the secret service, and how the Bond books and films relate to real world events.


19 Nov 2019

Rank #8

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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 with Kew.

1hr 6mins

8 Oct 2019

Rank #9

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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 secret material never meant for public eyes.


1 Oct 2019

Rank #10

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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.


24 Sep 2019

Rank #11

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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.


9 Sep 2019

Rank #12

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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 Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.


23 Jul 2018

Rank #13

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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 Alan Turing Institute and Chair of its Data Ethics research Group, and Chairman of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework. He sits on the EU’s Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection, on the Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Governance, and on Google Advisory Board on ‘the right to be forgotten’. His areas of expertise include the philosophy of information, digital ethics, and the philosophy of technology. His recent books include ‘The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality’ (2014), ‘The Ethics of Information’ (2013), and ‘The Philosophy of Information’ (2011).

1hr 2mins

10 Jul 2018

Rank #14

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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.


4 Jul 2018

Rank #15

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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 a whole?


18 Jun 2018

Rank #16

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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 British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her current research is focused on risk to the availability of trustworthy records, in particular in blockchain record-keeping systems. She holds a doctorate from University College London (Archival Studies, 2002), and, since 2005, has been a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). She is also the winner of the 2015 Emmett Leahy Award for outstanding contributions to the field of records management, a 2015 World Bank Big Data Innovation Award, and a 2016 Emerald Literati Award for her research on blockchain technology.Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.


17 May 2018

Rank #17

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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’.

1hr 8mins

1 May 2018

Rank #18

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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 discussion.


27 Apr 2018

Rank #19

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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 Humanities Research Council strategic theme of ‘Digital Transformations’.Our Big Ideas seminar series is funded by the Friends of The National Archives.


21 Mar 2018

Rank #20