HistFest 22 Review

Leah Blundell

Our Assistant Editor headed to the London based festival over a recent April weekend.
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HistFest is a festival, running for only two years seeking to offer history for all audiences, and who could complain about such an aspiration? Partnered and hosted by the British Library, it’s easy to get to, and the 2022 line up featured many fantastic subjects, not necessarily the usual festival fayre. Aspects of History’s very own Tessa Dunlop had led the line-up the previous day, with 98-year old veteran Betty Webb.

Novelist Kate Mosse was interviewed about her latest, City of Tears: The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Dr Sophie Nicholls. Mosse was enthusiastic and gave great detail about why she chose the massacre as the novel’s setting. It’s rare for an academic and fiction author to chat, and their perspectives were paradoxically both similar and different.

Dr Emma Wells

The next discussion saw Jason Okundaye lead the questioning as Luke Pepera shared fascinating details about the kingdom of Benin (modern Nigeria) from the medieval and early modern period, offering an insightful anthropological perspective. Then, Paddy Docherty discussed his own research into the kingdom detailed in his book, Blood and Bronze. He provided some personal accounts and stories as Paddy had dug his way through the archives to find some harrowing evidence against the British and their looting of these incredible Bronzes. It was a rousing and emotive discussion that was thoroughly engaging.

Finally, the last talk of the day was with medieval historian, Dr Emma Wells, and the journalist Shafi Musaddique examining Hell. They explored portrayals of the devil throughout history as well as representations of Hell as a place. Thought-provoking, both participants got me thinking about belief and religion and the purpose they serve.

What a marvellous experience at HistFest 22. Accessible, diverse, enjoyable and interactive, the opportunity to engage with experts of their field, as they discuss histories that are varied and global in scope, makes this festival a real gem.

HistFest is an annual event, and also runs events throughout the year. Their next is Emperors: A History, with Dominic Lieven.