NEW SEASON. Wednesday 28th SEptember.

Jogger, Mugger and Hipster: Gentrification in late 20th century Britain

Professor Peter Mandler

Peter Mandler a renowned cultural historian at Cambridge University opened our sixth year of the new Bristol Branch of the Historical Association.  In forty five minutes he gave a wide ranging and fascinating exploration of the changing demography of Britain’s post-war cities.  He introduced the Jogger a now widely accepted part of urban life as a once “UnEnglish” even preposterous figure.  Originally middle aged men  trying to ward off heart disease these exercisers had become highly visible in our cities by the 1970’s.  These pioneers were often graduates of our expanding universities who now choose to live in the inner city for longer and by 1978 had been joined by female joggers.  Their uniform of sweat shirts and trainers moved from running to protect their hearts to running for their minds.  We got use to them hogging our cities’ pavements.

Another media trope “the mugger” was seen as part of the moral panic that often surrounded reporting on our inner cities. While the media presented street crime rising and the victims being aging, poorer white women, the work of Stuart Hall and other sociologists helped to present a more accurate account of crime and robbery in the 1970’s suggesting black young men were being presented as scapegoats in  the zones of transition of the inner city. 

The final figure the “Hipster” often seen as figure of fun and even a pretentious phoney by journalists was presented by Professor Mandler as part of the way cities evolved in the noughties.  These socially aspirant young people had well paid jobs and were part of making cities more viable even in the more unattractive parts of London . 

This funny and insightful lecture was followed by lots of lively questions from the audience many contributing their own experiences as urban dwellers in our city.  


The University of Bristol have a new project researching Bristol’s industrial history. A report written by Dr James Watts and Lena Ferriday has just been published, uncovering the history of the former gasworks, 65 Avon Street, St Philips. The company introduced gas and gas lighting to the city, and this research highlights both the positive and negative impacts of this new technology for the city:

The university is now appealing for local people to come forward with memories, images, documents or artefacts associated with the Gas Shed or Retort House, the former headquarters of the Bristol Gas Company or its later use as the Vauxhall Drive Garage. They have a survey for people to share stories and footage set up here: They are also looking for participants in oral history interviews, who can sign up here:

There is more information on the project here:

ACTON COURT. 19th June 2022

Our last event of the 2021-22 season was a tour of Acton Court with Rob Bell. The fact that this Tudor house survives is a miracle. When it was discovered it was on the verge of collapse. Rob Bell and Kirsty Rodwell led the team that excavated the site in the 1980s. The house was owned by the Poyntze family. It is a perfect example of how English architecture moved from the late Gothic style in the 1530s to the Renaissance in the 1550s.

The high point in the house’s history was the 1535 visit of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The East Wing was specially built for their weekend visit. Given the speed and method of construction (nine months) it is amazing it did not collapse whilst his majesty was staying there. Unfortunately for the Poyntze family a combination of overspending on the house and backing the wrong side in 1550s led to their decline. By 1680 the family were bankrupt.

We were extremely lucky to be shown around the house by such an expert.

Putin’s memory wars: The past as a weapon in Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine  June 8th 2022

We had an audience of 45 last night at Janek Gryta’s lecture.

Dr Gryta’s fascinating and highly relevant lecture closed our year of lectures for 2021-22.  This lecture explored the way History is viewed not only in Russia but in Eastern Europe and has been shaped by the isolation of the Cold War and Communism.  This had led to a focus on a national victimhood/martyrdom view of the “Great Patriotic War” and a search for an enemy in the national narrative.  Poland’s Memory Law in 2016 which had temporarily forbidden saying that any Poles had participated in the Holocaust and Ukraine’s own law in 2015 were given as examples of how legislation had tried to enforce interpretations of the past.  In the main part of the lecture Dr Gryta looked at Vladimir Putin’s (ab)uses of History as an extreme case in the misuse of history.  He explored some of the exaggerated myths around the “Great Patriotic War” which portrayed Russians as the unequivocal saviours of the West.  Events like the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the Katyn Massacres or the Holodomor (Famine in 1930’s Ukraine) were written out of the Russian narrative of History except for the brief spell in the 1990’s when the archives were opened.  Anyone who fought as nationalists in the Second World War is depicted as an anti-Communist and therefore a Nazi.  Stalin has now been praised by Vladimir Putin for expanding Russian borders.  The language and culture differences inside many of the former Soviet Republics were also explored and the effect of transporting Russian speakers to these areas. The lecture helped to give a much more sophisticated understanding of why Putin and his troops and TV audiences would accept terms like Nazi being applied to Ukrainians and how the invasion has been justified

The Statue of the Motherland in Ukraine which still has the Hammer and Sickle on its shield

Professor Ronald’s Hutton’s Bristol Historical Association lecture 11th May 2022

The successful reign of Mary

We had our largest audience of 2021-22 so far, with 144 people including 95 students from 13 different sixth forms in the area.  Ronald Hutton delivered a clear revision of the “Bloody Mary” who is often seen as England’s most unpopular and least successful monarch.  Dividing the reign into four key areas -high politics, finance, defence and religion he re-examined her reign in line with research done by recent historians including himself.  The wasn’t a PowerPoint slide in sight as he developed his clear argument and the audience listened attentively.  He posed some really interesting comparisons with her sister along the lines of what if Elizabeth had reigned for an equally short period? He brought out her real achievements in managing her potentially faction ridden court, starting the road to financial recovery after the inflation of Edward and Henry’s reign and her lasting achievements in terms of defence in the setting up of a militia.  While acknowledging he did not find Mary a likeable personality, even in the area of religion and executions he gave a much more balance evaluation of Mary Tudor’s reign. By comparison Charles II’s record of tolerance was blighted by his incarceration of so many Quakers who died much slower deaths in squalid prisons. Ronald challenged the image of “Bloody Mary” as an exceptionally cruel monarch.  The striking conclusion was that there were no “duff Tudors” and they were all capable and talented rulers whether we liked them as people or not. This witty and lively lecture generated lots of great questions from our audience many of whom went off feeling more confident about their impending exams.   

Lunchtime lectures at Bristol central library

12.30pm until 1.20pm

Thursday May 12

A History of Bristol Medical School.

A Lunchtime Lecture by David Cahill.

Thursday 19 May

Praying in Medieval Bristol with the Ruddok-Clyve Hours.

A Lunchtime Lecture by Professor Kathleen Kennedy, University of Bristol.

Saturday 21 May

Take a tour of Bristol Central Library.

Thursday 26 May

Manson’s Bristol Miscellany

A Lunchtime Lecture by Michael Manson.

Thursday 26 May

Breaking The News. Extra! Extra. A behind the scenes viewing of historical newspapers from Bristol Libraries’ Collections.