Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh-American journalist and explorer, allegedly greeted the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone with the phrase, “Dr Livingston, I presume?”

David Livingstone was born in 1813 and, having completed training as a doctor, made his first journey to Africa in 1841. He converted his first and only African eight years later, after which he became convinced that further missionary work could only succeed if Africa’s rivers were mapped to become ‘highways’ to the interior.

Livingstone sent his family back to Britain in 1852 prior to beginning an expedition to explore the Zambezi. Over the course of the next four years he crossed the African continent and mapped almost the entire Zambezi while becoming the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfall, which he renamed Victoria Falls.

Livingstone returned to Britain in 1856, but sailed back to Africa in 1858 with the intention of opening the Zambezi to ‘legitimate’ British trade to combat slavery. After this expedition failed in its aim to find a navigable route to the interior Livingstone again returned to Britain. He began his final journey to Africa in January 1866.

Hoping to find the source of the Nile, the expedition began to fail as Livingstone’s assistants began to desert him. With the outside world having heard nothing of him for over three years, Henry Morton Stanley was sent to find the Scot by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869. He was eventually found on 10 November 1871 in the town of Ujiji. Stanley is alleged to have greeted him with the words “Dr Livingston, I presume?” although this phrase is likely a fabrication since the relevant pages in Stanley’s diary were torn out, and Livingstone himself never mentioned it.

On the 5th November 1605, the Gunpowder Plot was foiled when Guy or Guido Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder that had been placed in an undercroft below the House of Lords in London. The failure of the plot and execution of the conspirators has since been commemorated in Britain on what is known as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, where effigies of Guy Fawkes are traditionally burned on a bonfire amidst large firework displays.

The Gunpowder Plot was conceived at a time of significant religious tension in the British Isles. Less than a century had passed since Henry VIII broke from Rome, and Catholics continued to be persecuted when James VI of Scotland was crowned James I of England. Led by Robert Catesby, a group of thirteen Catholics conspired to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament, when James would be inside the building. Having killed the king, they would then initiate a revolt that would bring James’ young daughter Elizabeth to the throne as a puppet queen. However, the plot was revealed in an anonymous letter and the search of the undercroft was conducted late in the evening of the 4th November.

Most people know that Guy Fawkes, along with the other surviving conspirators, was sentenced to execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. However, what is less widely known is that he managed to leap from the gallows and break his neck. Fawkes was therefore already dead by the time the executioner began to carry out the more gruesome parts of his sentence.

The world’s first submarine transatlantic telephone cable system was inaugurated.

Known as Transatlantic No. 1 or TAT-1, the £120 million system actually consisted of two identical cables to allow transmission in each direction. Prompted by the successful installation of a submarine cable between Florida and Cuba in 1952, a consortium of the UK’s General Post Office, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation agreed to investigate the feasibility of a transatlantic cable.

It was already possible to make a transatlantic telephone call when the 1,950 nautical mile long cable began to be laid in 1955. However, this involved numerous radio links to be booked in advance and was consequently an expensive method of communicating that required significant advance planning.

Stretching from Oban in Scotland to Clarenville in Newfoundland, TAT-1 was able to carry 35 simultaneous telephone calls while a 36th channel provided an additional 22 telegraph lines. Calls from the UK were charged at £1 per minute, a significant reduction from the cost of the radio alternative.

Having gone into operation almost as soon as the two ends were connected, TAT-1 went on to carry over 600 transatlantic calls in the first 24 hours of public service. In 1963, following the de-escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, TAT-1 also carried the Moscow-Washington hotline that linked the Kremlin to the White House.

TAT-1 was eventually retired in 1978 having been superseded by other transatlantic cables that were capable of transmitting a greater number of concurrent signals.

On the 29th July 1567, James VI was crowned king of Scotland when he was just 13 months old. As the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, he succeeded Elizabeth I and became the first monarch to rule all three countries almost 36 years later.

James was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and as such immediately became heir to the Scottish throne when he was born. However, his mother’s Roman Catholic faith caused her reign to be constantly under threat from the largely Protestant nobility, and was one of many reasons for her arrest and imprisonment in June 1567. She was forced to abdicate in favour of her young son a month later, and never saw him again as he was quickly taken away to be raised in Stirling Castle as a God-fearing Protestant king.

Having been crowned king when he was barely one year old, James obviously didn’t rule Scotland himself. Instead power lay with a series of four regents who handled the affairs of government until his minority ended in 1578 when he was 12 years old. However, he didn’t gain complete control over the government for another 5 years.

James ruled Scotland on its own until the 24th March 1603, when Elizabeth I of England – James’ first cousin twice removed – died and James was proclaimed king in a surprisingly smooth and peaceful succession. As such he was the first monarch to rule Scotland, England and Ireland in what is referred to as the Union of the Crowns.

 

Today is World Fringe Day where people around the world are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the world famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which took place for the first time in 1947. HistoryPod is proud to be able to celebrate #WorldFringeDay, and the foundation of the Fringe movement, in this special live recording from the Buxton Festival Fringe in the wonderful English spa town of Buxton in Derbyshire. I’m recording today’s episode in front of a group of Buxton Fringe-goers, and we’re very lucky to be situated within a beautiful Victorian building that now serves as Scrivener’s Bookshop on the outskirts of the Peak District National Park in England.

When Sir Rudolf Bing, a controversial Austrian opera impresario, curated the first Edinburgh International Festival in the summer of 1947, he focused the programme on what he called the “highest and purest ideals of art in its many and varied forms”. This high-brow mission statement immediately drew criticism from many artistic groups who felt alienated by the festival’s exclusivity. The fact that approximately £60,000 was being spent on an elite cultural celebration just two years after the devastating effects of the Second World War also seemed to ignore the fragile state of Britain’s economy and social fabric.

Despite these concerns, companies including Glyndebourne Opera, the Halle Orchestra and Sadler’s Wells Ballet converged on Edinburgh for the inaugural festival. However, another eight theatre companies who had not been invited to perform took matters into their own hands. Although it is unlikely that they had conspired in advance to provide an alternative programme, the companies – who soon referred to themselves collectively as the ‘Festival Adjuncts’ – benefitted greatly from the audiences who had travelled to Edinburgh for the official festival. Consisting of six Scottish and two English theatre companies, this loose collection of like-minded groups caught the eye of many festival-goers with what was referred to by Alistair Moffatt in his 1978 book about the Edinburgh Fringe as their ‘missionary zeal’.

Since the major venues in Edinburgh were already in use for the official festival performances, these other companies were forced to find alternative spaces to stage their productions. These ranged from smaller theatres in the city to the innovative use of Dunfermline Abbey to stage a production of the medieval morality play Everyman. The Abbey’s location, about 20 miles outside Edinburgh, led to a critic lamenting its location ‘on the fringe of the Festival’.

This is the first recorded use of the term ‘fringe’ in the context of the Edinburgh Festival, although it’s important to note that it was written with a small letter F. This happened again the following year when the Scottish playwright and journalist, Robert Kemp, commented on the wealth of ‘private enterprise’ that was taking place ‘round the fringe of official Festival drama’. It wasn’t until 1958 that the Festival Fringe Society was created to coordinate what the Scotsman newspaper referred to as an ‘official unofficial festival’. In the wake of this more formal organisation, the Fringe finally acquired its all-important capital F twelve years after the first performers converged on Edinburgh, and the Fringe was recognised as a festival in its own right.

A key value of the Fringe is that it is an unjuried festival – meaning that there is no selection committee, and that anyone who can secure a venue is able to perform. This has led to some innovative uses of the available spaces, and where we’re recording this podcast at the Buxton Festival Fringe is no exception. Scrivener’s Books and Bookbinding shop is situated on the High Street of this ancient market town in a building that was originally a Victorian tobacconist’s shop. Consisting of five floors of rare and not-so-rare books, and even featuring a small Victorian museum in the cellar, I frankly couldn’t imagine a better place for a history fan like me to speak to history fans like you.

And Buxton itself has a fascinating history. The Romans established a settlement here, naming it in honour of the natural spa waters that have been a focal point for the town ever since. The spa water drew the Earl of Shrewsbury to the town in 1573 when he and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, brought the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots to stay at the Old Hall Hotel in the centre of the town. This hotel continues to stand on its original site next to the later 18th century Crescent, which was built by the Dukes of Devonshire when they transformed the town into a Georgian holiday resort similar to Bath in the South West of England. The popularity of the town continued throughout the Victorian era as the arrival of the railway allowed people to travel from all over the country to take advantage of the reputed healing properties of the waters. This period saw the landscaping of the Pavilion Gardens which are overlooked by the imposing cast iron Dome of the University of Derby, which is housed in what were originally the Great Stables of the Duke of Devonshire.

On the 5th July 1948, healthcare provision in the UK was nationalized when the National Health Service was launched. The idea was to bring together everyone involved in healthcare provision into one organisation that would provide care that was “free at the point of delivery”. Funding would come directly from taxation, meaning that people paid for the service according to their means.

The Labour government of Clement Atlee won the first post-war election with a pledge to implement the recommendations of the 1942 Beveridge Report and improve the social welfare system in Britain. The following year the National Health Service Act 1946 created the NHS in England and Wales, while NHS Scotland was established in 1947.

The NHS didn’t appear without opposition, however. The Conservative Party was particularly hostile to providing universal care through taxation, while many consultants and doctors were concerned about low pay and the loss of the opportunity to top up their earnings by taking on private patients.

The health minister, Bevan, recognised the problem of having a nationalised health system without consultants and doctors so agreed to raise the pay for consultants. He also allowed them and GPs to run their own private practices.

The first year of the NHS was incredibly expensive, costing more than twice the budgeted amount. However, Bevan claimed that this was due to years of under-provision, and a ‘rush’ to take advantage in case free healthcare was later scrapped. Although costs have continued to rise with continued advances in medical science, the NHS is still a central part of the UK’s identity.

The Battle of Bannockburn began on the 23rd June 1314, leading to one of the most important Scottish victories of the First War of Scottish Independence that was fought intermittently from 1296 until 1328. Robert the Bruce, who had seized the Scottish throne in 1306, defeated King Edward II of England and secured Scotland’s de facto independence.

The battle was prompted by the Scots besieging the strategically important English-held Stirling Castle. The constable of the castle agreed to surrender unless he received assistance from the English army to break the siege by the 24th June. Faced with this imminent loss of the castle Edward II successfully raised an army of around 2,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry to march on Scotland. Robert the Bruce’s army was significantly smaller than Edward’s, with estimates suggesting that he commanded around half the number of foot soldiers and only a quarter of the cavalry.

Bannockburn was unusual for a medieval battle in that it lasted for two days, with the first day being notable for Bruce single-handedly killing the young English knight Sir Henry de Bohun with an axe blow to the head after he tried to charge him with a lance. The ensuing melee resulted in the English being driven back, which had a devastating effect on their morale. The next day, after a sleepless night on marshy land next to the river known as the Bannock Burn, the English were hemmed in by the advancing Scots in front and the water. Realising they had lost, Edward II was escorted away by his bodyguards.

On the 7th June 1628, the Petition of Right was approved by King Charles I. The Petition is a major Constitutional document that recognises four key principles of government: no taxation without the consent of Parliament, no imprisonment without cause, no quartering of soldiers on subjects, and no martial law in peacetime. It is still in force today.

A major reason for the Petition of Right was that Charles firmly believed in Divine Right – the idea that God had chosen him to rule. This encouraged Charles to rule by Royal Prerogative, meaning he tried to govern without consulting parliament.  However, Parliament felt that Charles was overreaching his authority, especially when he began gathering “forced loans” from his subjects and imprisoning anyone who refused to pay. They were angered by Charles taking money from his subjects without Parliamentary approval, and by imprisonment without trial that undermined Magna Carta and habeas corpus.

What was notable about the passage of the Petition of Right was that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – which had traditionally supported the monarchy – had approved it. Despite this, Charles was initially unwilling to ratify it and even sent a message to the Commons “forbidding them to meddle with affairs of state”. When it became clear that Parliament would not back down, Charles finally relented and ratified the Petition on the 7th June. However he continued to govern the country in much the same way as before, setting in place a major factor for the outbreak of the English Civil War less than fifteen years later.

On the 10th May 1941 Deputy Fuhrer of the German Party, Rudolf Hess, flew from Germany to Scotland on a mission to strike a peace deal with the British government.  Other than a couple of close confidantes, nobody – not even Hitler himself – knew what Hess had planned.

In preparation for his mission, Hess had learned how to fly a 2-seater Messerschmitt Bf 110, that was adapted to his specifications.  Travelling solo, and navigating by spotting landmarks on the ground, Hess reached the north-east coast of England at around 9pm.  Continuing in the air for another two hours, Hess parachuted out of his plane six hours after departing Germany.  He landed just 12 miles away from his intended destination of Dungavel House, the home of the Duke of Hamilton with whom he hoped to open peace negotiations.

Hess’ arrival in Britain was not met with the enthusiasm he had hoped.  He was discovered by a ploughman working in a nearby field, but soon found himself in custody.  Back in Germany, Hitler is said to have taken Hess’ mission as a personal betrayal and signed a secret order that he be shot on sight if he ever returned.

Hess was held in Britain until the end of the war, after which he was found guilty of crimes against peace at the Nuremberg War Trials that resulted in life imprisonment at Spandau Prison in Berlin.  When he died in 1987, he had been the prison’s only inmate for 21 years.

The Stone of Scone was found on the site of the High Altar at Arbroath Abbey, nearly four months after it disappeared from Westminster Abbey.

The Stone of Scone is a block of red sandstone that was used in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and, later, the monarchs of England and the Kingdom of Great Britain. It was captured by King Edward I of England in 1296 and taken from Scone Abbey in Scotland to Westminster Abbey in London.

Since it was a powerful symbol of Scottish nationhood, a plot to remove the Stone from Westminster Abbey and return it to Scotland was hatched by University of Glasgow student Ian Hamilton and a number of accomplices. Having secured funding from Scottish businessman Robert Gray, Hamilton and three other students drove to London on Christmas Eve 1950 and put their plan into action.

The three men from the group entered the Abbey through a side door that night, and made their way to the Coronation Chair. They managed to remove the Stone, but damaged the chair itself in the process. The Stone also fell to the floor and broke into two unequal parts. The smaller was quickly taken to a waiting car driven by the one female accomplice, Kay Matheson, while Hamilton returned to load the larger half into a second car.

The two halves were reunited in Scotland a few weeks later, and the Stone was repaired by a stonemason. The conspirators met two Arbroath councillors at the ruined Abbey on 11 April, and laid the Stone on the site of the High Altar. The councillors later informed the police, and the Stone was recovered and returned to Westminster Abbey. It now resides in Edinburgh Castle, having been formally returned to Scotland by the British government in 1996.