CHF 2024: Day 1

And it’s curtains up - Day one of the world’s greatest history festival.
Josephine Quinn talks civilisations
Home » Articles » CHF 2024: Day 1

CHF 2024: Day 1

The festival site looked resplendent in the dappled June light, bouts of sunshine alternating with welcome cloud cover and a gentle breeze.  Regular visitors will notice some changes to the layout.  The Evelyn Partners tent has moved and is now a giant yurt offering a much more intimate space for talks.  There’s a new stylish membership lounge for Plantagenet members. Giant letters on the side of the hill spell out CHALKE, a nod to her HOLLYWOOD cousins.

Thank God the beer tent is in the usual location.

The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won The War, Giles Milton

Giles Milton is a fabulous storyteller. Giles was first up with the unlikely story of the American businessman Averell Harriman and his daughter Kathy, sent by Roosevelt as envoys to Stalin.  Had the diplomatic effort to ally with the Russians against Hitler not worked out, history might have been very different. 1940s Moscow sounded riotous, not least with the Americans and Stalin both using copious quantities of vodka to get people talking and bring them on side. A riveting behind the scenes story, and thanks to Giles’s research, some astonishing insight into the lives of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin and their diplomats.

Giles Milton talks The Stalin Affair

How The World Made The West: A 4,000 Year History, Josephine Quinn

Josephine Quinn is a professor of Ancient History at Oxford University.  Her study of civilisations represents a massive revision, in that – gasp – Ancient Greece and Rome do not represent the apotheosis of humankind, and in fact there is no such thing as a civilisation.  In other words all cultures are equally valid, and the notion of specific civilisations are made up by historians. Not that this radical revision dismayed the audience who thrilled Quinn’s gallop through Minoa, Mycenae, Assyria, Pharaonic Egypt, and Islam.

The End of Enlightenment: Empire, Commerce, Crisis. Richard Whatmore

Ali Ansari & Richard Whatmore

We’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot from the excellent Ali Ansari during the week.  Ansari, who is Professor in Modern History at the University of St Andrews conversed with his St Andrews colleague Richard Whatmore, on the failures of the so called enlightenment.   His argument is that the enlightenment, far from being an age of reason, was a savage reaction against religious violence, in which people felt justified killing each other in the name of liberty.

I’m on a mission this week to identify the most relevant moments in history for our present-day challenges. Richard Whatmore reckons the 18th century is the most relevant period with all ideologies having run their course and failed. With 27% of university students in the USA believing violence is justified to prevent a campus speech from a controversial speaker, and with the West struggling to understand the motives of Xi Jinping’s repressive regime, it might be wise for the next UK government to have a read of this excellent book.


Justin Doherty is Editor at Large at Aspects of History. Head to the CHF site here.