History Byways


Isambard Kingdom Brunel against the launching chains of the Great Eastern at Millwall in 1857

 Co-ordinator: Diane Tucker – tucker.diane@gmail.com

We meet fortnightly at the Baptist Church Hall in Saffron Walden on Monday mornings from 11.00am  to 12.00pm.

We have a full class at the moment but please contact our co-ordinator to see if there are any vacancies.

Recent topics: It was the centenary of the outbreak of the twentieth century’s most devastating conflict in 2014, and for a deeper understanding of its causes and effects the History Byways group chose The First World War as its most recent topic of study.
Not just a series of battles, soldiers in mud-filled trenches and the incomprehensible numbers of killed and wounded, but the questions that still seem to have no answers.  Was war inevitable?  Why did one assassination in a minor Balkan country spark such a huge conflagration?  Why did Britain get involved?  Why was there such enthusiasm to join the armed forces?
We have looked at the more personal aspects – medals, photographs, souvenirs – as well as the wider picture and personalities involved: Edith Cavell and nursing; Rupert Brooke and war poetry; Anzac and Gallipoli; our links with the various European royal families and revolution in Russia.  Although an armistice was declared in November 1918, the tragic consequences of the Great War are still with us.

Earlier forays have delved into the activities and achievements of the early Victorians. The 1830s, ‘40’s and ‘50s was the world of Dickens, Brunel, Prince Albert, Florence Nightingale, David Livingstone, and countless others who contributed so much to the causes and developments of the period.

We have focused on photography, the penny post and the police, artists, the reform of Parliament and the reconstruction of its buildings, the railways boom and the Great Exhibition. However, the expansion of cities and trading interests both at home and abroad spawned their own problems: poverty, disease and death were ever present. The plight of the poor and the sick as revealed by the Irish potato famine, cholera epidemics and workhouses, together with wars in China, New Zealand and the Crimea, gradually led to improvements in housing, public health, nursing, army conditions and the beginnings of trade unions.