Please find below a selection of some of our talks which can be offered as lectures or classes. All of our talks are delivered by experienced speakers who are used to engaging and connecting with their audiences.
The Gin Craze
Nowadays we like to think of a gin and tonic as a fairly civilised drink, but in the 18th Century, gin was decried as 'the principal cause of all the vice & debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people'. This talk explores the sometimes shocking story of London’s first love-affair with the drink, as famously portrayed in Hogarth's 'Gin Lane', and uncovers some fascinating locations and characters from our past.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Known for his uplifting speeches, as well as for his more notorious comments, Winston Churchill is arguably one of the most influential figures in our country’s history. This talk examines not only the forces that shaped the man behind the iconic image, but his contribution during both world wars, and to the national identity of
Insects such as bees and ants live in the most extreme societies found anywhere in the animal kingdom. How one queen can get 60 thousand workers to spend their brief lives working to run a colony or hive, and helping her alone to reproduce seems a mystery. This talk will explore how insects living in 'eusocial' societies have evolved, and how they have developed to become fantastically complex superorganisms.
The British Monarchy
So much of British history is influenced by the actions of a monarch or their family, and we identify periods of time in history using the names of the monarchs who ruled, whether or not the monarchs themselves deserve such distinction. This talk takes a look at the changing face of the
British Monarchy over the last thousand years, from William the Conqueror to the current Queen.
Emily Davison. The Pankhurst sisters. Millicent Fawcett. We know their names, but how much do we know about them? Discover more about women's fight for the right to vote. Learn where the main events took place, the women and men involved and how their actions brought about one of the most significant changes in the history of 20th Century Britain.
Birds of Prey
Did you know that a diving peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth? Birds of prey such as hawks, raptors, falcons and owls live extreme lives, and are some of the most specialised birds in the world. Everything about their brains and bodies is finely-tuned to make them into the perfect killing-machines. This talk will reveal how these amazing birds manage the incredible physical feats involved in a
When we think of the word 'monster', we tend to picture dragons, hydras or fantastical beasts. But monsters can be found in nature: they are things that don't fit, that challenge our world views. This talk explores the way creatures have been made into monsters through history, from chimerical beasts conjured up from body parts and travellers tales, actual 'dragons' and 'mermaids' constructed for the mass market, to apparently impossible beasts that just refuse to fit in, or animals seen as threats that must be exterminated.
Humans have spent centuries trying to work out what makes us so different from other animals. The more we find out, the less clear this seems. Other creatures can have impressive cognitive abilities, from an awareness of others' minds, to astounding problem-solving skills. Even cows have surprisingly complex social lives, and octopuses have personalities. This talk explores the minds of other species, and the many ways in which they're not so different from us after all.
Ask most people what a pangolin is and they will probably look at you blankly or ask if it's some kind of dinosaur. But pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are the most traded mammals on the planet. They are also on the brink of disappearing as a result of this illegal trade, which supplies restaurants, traditional medicine, and even drug production across Africa and Asia. This talk will delve into the fantastical biology of these scaly animals and the thorny problems we face to save them.
Tea & Coffee
‘Wouldn't it be dreadful to live in a country that didn't have tea?' Many of us would agree with Noel Coward, for tea-drinking is now an innate part of our culture, but how much do we know of the ‘theft’ from China of the recipe by Scottish botanist, Robert Fortune? Coffee has a similarly chequered history in this country: Charles II attempted to ban coffee houses as they were increasingly seen as a threat to peace and stability.
The Spice Trade
In the earliest years of the spice trade, traders told stories of cassia growing in lakes protected by winged animals, in order to keep the prices high. In the 17th Century, a swampy patch of ground called Manhattan was swapped for the spice island of Run, a place rich in nutmeg and at the time, far more valuable. This talk considers the mythical provenance of spice, the exploration it involved across the globe, and the violence suffered as a result.
Christianity and Islam
It is estimated that just over 50% of the world’s population are either Christian or Muslim: the significance of religion, and its impact across the world cannot be denied. Delivered as a single talk or in separate sessions, explore Christianity and Islam from their earliest roots and discover the journeys of both religions, from their early beginnings to how they became world-changing religions with billions of believers.
The Old Operating Theatre: Victorian Surgery
A virtual surgical demonstration presented by the staff of the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret of Old St. Thomas’s Hospital. Before the advent of anaesthesia, an operation had to be swift. Without hand-washing or antiseptics, the chance of later infection was high. This talk takes you back in time and explains how surgery was done in the Victorian era by using as an example the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe dated to 1822.
Spectacular animals have always been important players in international relations as gifts between political powers, and these creatures often become celebrities with illustrious, though frequently short-lived, careers. This talk looks at the colourful stories of animal diplomats, from Zarafa the French giraffe, the 'Dutch' dodo that ended up in a Sultan's menagerie, to platypuses secretly transported across the world during World War II.
The Battle of Britain
When Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, “The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin...” he gave a name to the first major campaign ever to be fought entirely by air forces. The ensuing air battle, the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date, marked the first defeat of Hitler’s military force and Britain's survival. This talk takes us through that battle and examines its global significance.
The National Gallery: What Not to Miss
London is a city of art, but sometimes it can feel rather overwhelming and you don’t know where to look first! In this talk, we focus on a few favourites from the National Gallery’s collection to uncover the history of Western art, as well some of the surprising stories behind these great masterpieces.
The V&A: An Armchair Tour
The Victoria & Albert Museum holds over 2.3 million objects and is the world’s foremost museum in art and design. From the Great Bed of Ware to the Raphael Cartoons, this talk takes you on a virtual tour of the V&A, looking at some of the must-see highlights and opening your eyes to 5,000 years of social history.
If you enjoy opera, or if you would simply like to know more about it, this talk will open your eyes and ears to the cultural and musical delights that await you. Understand more about librettos, arias, singers and audiences so that you know what to listen out for and can attend your next opera thoroughly informed.
The Friendly Invasion
During WWII, thousands of American air force personnel arrived in Britain, and dramatically altered the social landscape. ‘Over-paid, over-sexed and over here!' was the phrase used by locals as they were introduced to peanut butter, chewing gum, jitterbugging, Coca Cola and much more. This talk looks at the impact of 'The Friendly Invasion' as well as that of a few key Americans, their presence in Britain and how they were instrumental in changing the US Government's foreign policy.
William Shakespeare is universally regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and his contribution to our vocabulary is extensive. It has been estimated that Shakespeare contributed more than 1,500 words to the English language, and his plays are performed across the world, more than those of any other playwright. This talk examines Shakespeare's life, and his staggering contribution to a global language of the 21st century.
The poet Philip Larkin wrote rather gloomily, ‘Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three/(which was rather late for me) -/Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban/And the Beatles' first LP.’ The Beatles were much more than a pop group; they changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. This talk looks at the career of The Beatles as well as the impact they had on society, morality and culture.
Charles Dickens is one of the most highly regarded writers in the English language, and he is known as much for his portrayal of the Victorian era as he is for his memorable characters. This talk considers Dickens' life, his novels and his work for social reform, allowing us a unique look at the Victorian England he experienced.
Treason & Traitors
The word ‘traitor’ seems almost glamorous these days, reminding us of figures like Guy Fawkes or Anne Boleyn, victims of bygone eras fraught with royal and religious politics. By examining traitors and their deaths we gain an insight into the history of the Tower of London, our monarchs, and the deaths of the thousands of individuals, executed and burnt in the name of truth.
Fires of London
The Fires of London – how they started, whom they affected, and how they were dealt with – provide an interesting perspective on the social history of London. This talk covers London’s fires from AD 60 until the fires of the Blitz and Windsor Castle, providing useful vignettes within history and revealing how much – or perhaps how little –society has changed throughout the centuries.
London Beneath Your Feet
Did you know that the fountains in Trafalgar Square were originally supplied by artesian wells? Or that The Strand is named from the Old English word 'strond' meaning, 'by the side of a river'? This talk is a story of the geography of London beneath our feet, and also pays homage to the doctor whose simple geographical research rid London of death by cholera, as well as the engineer whose underground planning solved the capital's 'Great Stink'!
London On Your Doorstep
London is a city steeped in history but with so many of us caught up in the fast pace of today’s world it can be easy to miss the rich past that surrounds us. Hear about events which have taken place around you, where they were located and how it affects London today, and discover a new appreciation for the city. This talk can be adapted depending upon your location.
William Shakespeare may have been described by the contemporary critic Robert Greene as an ‘upstart crow’, but Shakespeare’s success as a playwright is unparalleled and his work still resonates with us today. This talk looks at the life and times of Shakespeare, provides an introduction to the London he knew, and explores how it influenced his plays.