- South East
£75 - £150
1 Month Minimum
Previously, I was a Professor of International Relations, working for twenty years at two universities in Istanbul, Turkey. I also worked as a consultant, specialising on Turkey. My career provided me with invaluable experience in speaking before different audiences.
Since returning to the UK, I have specialised in writing books and articles on local and social history. My book, 'Whispers Across Continents: In Search of the Robinsons' (Amberley, 2019) traced the lives of an extraordinary family from Lincolnshire and Bethnal Green to India, the Ottoman Empire, Germany and the US. My latest book, 'The Butcher, The Tailor, The Picture-Frame Maker...Stories of Middle Way' (The Book Guild, 2023), is a land and house history which explores the lives of the colourful and amazing characters connected with the property where I now live in Summertown, north Oxford.
A Convicted Murderer, A Disappearing Butcher, and a Besotted MP: Characters in a House and Land History
House histories have become increasingly popular in recent years. My talk goes one step further and also incorporates a history of the land where I now live in north Oxford.
I explore some of the intriguing characters who owned the land connected with my property. These include a seemingly respectable and God-fearing woman convicted in 1749 for murdering her housemaid in an apparent fit of jealousy; a butcher who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared in the 1830s after the tragic death of his young wife; and a local Mayor and MP in the early 1800s, infatuated with a young woman and addicted to gambling, who died in suspicious circumstances.
These, and other colourful characters, are also examined in my book, 'The Butcher, The Tailor, The Picture-Frame Maker...Stories of Middle Way’ (The Book Guild, 2023).
In my talk I demonstrate how extensive work in national and local archives, the use of newspaper sources and family search engines, and interviews with the relatives of people connected with a property can enable one to piece together a history of the place where one lives. Even if your house is a recently modern construction (such as mine), the land on which it stands may have fascinating stories waiting to be unearthed.
I can also give talks connected to my earlier book – ‘Whispers Across Continents: In Search of the Robinsons’.
One talk focuses on the extraordinary life of Hannah Rodda. Hannah was a supremely enterprising and resourceful woman – yet, surprisingly little known -raised in the slums of London's East End in the 1850s. Living in India after marrying a prosperous owner of tea plantations, after her husband's death Hannah returned to England, converted to Islam (one of the first women in Victorian England to do so), married a supposed Afghan warlord and re-located to the Ottoman Empire. This second marriage was a disaster, but amazingly the Sultan came to Hannah's rescue and provided her with a new husband.
This is a story where fact is certainly stranger than fiction and it provides intriguing insights into life in late Victorian England and the final years of the Ottoman Empire.
One of Hannah's sons became a sporting legend in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, playing goalkeeper for Galatasaray, and introducing Scouting and basketball to the Ottoman Empire. His fascinating life, in which he was suspected of being a possible spy for the British, is the subject of another talk.