The National Archives (TNA), at Kew in south-west London, has provided some further exciting details about its new ‘Cold War’ season, ‘Britain’s Cold War Revealed’, which starts in April, 2019.
The Cold War, which lasted from approx. 1945-1991, was a 46-year stand-off between the world’s two superpowers, the USA and USSR, a confrontation which was made all the more tense by the haunting threat of a nuclear war breaking out at any moment. The TNA’s season will offer a fascinating look into life in Britain during the turbulent Cold War era. It will comprise an exhibition, ‘Protect and Survive’, together with a varied programme of associated events and talks.
The Cold War season will open with the special exhibition, located on the ground-floor of the building. The exhibition will explore the impact of the Cold War on Britain, such as in the corridors of political power, in the hidden government bunkers, and on daily life in the home. The secret world of espionage and spying will also be featured.
The opening of the exhibition will then help launch a series of events and talks which will also explore the reality of life in a Britain that was under the persistent threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War era. The events will also offer some exploration of the secret intelligence war engaged in by East and West, and how this impacted on Britain.
The events include:
Friday 5th April (evening): ‘An Evening with Dame Stella Rimmington’. Appointed Director-General of MI5, Britain’s domestic Security Service, in 1992, and the first woman to hold the job, Dame Stella is now a best-selling thriller writer. She will discuss her career, and there will be an opportunity for questions afterwards.
Thursday 25th April (afternoon): ‘The Scandalous Case of John Vassall’. This event will be devoted to a talk on the infamous case of John Vassall, a civil servant caught in a ‘honey trap’ by Soviet intelligence at the height of the Cold War. The talk will be delivered by Mark Dunton, a contemporary records specialist.
Wednesday 1st May (afternoon): ‘UFOS and the Cold War’. This talk will provide insights into the public’s perception of the Cold War and technological advances, and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, and how there was an increase in sci-fi related television, publications, and media reporting during the Cold War era. The talk will be delivered by Keith Mitchell, a specialist in TNA’s UFO records.
Thursday 9th May (evening): ‘From the Bomb to the Beatles’. This event is an author talk by the historian Juliet Gardiner, and will look at the general history and socio-political evolution of Britain in the 20 years following the end of the Second World War, a period of domestic events and surprising changes in the country, against a background of rising Cold War tensions.
Wednesday 19th June (evening): ‘Writing the Cold War: The Works of John Le Carre’. In this talk, Dr. Sam Goodman will explore what the espionage novels of John Le Carre say about Britain and Britishness in a time of declining authority and power, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. The talk will be followed by a special screening of the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), which was, of course, based on one of Le Carre’s best-selling spy novels.
Friday 21st June (evening): ‘The Iron Curtain and the Iron Lady’. In this talk, the historian, journalist and television presenter Dominic Sandbrook will explore how the Cold War shaped the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, who prided herself on her reputation as the ‘Iron Lady’ (a nickname given to her by the Red Army newspaper), and sought to rally the West in a ‘crusade’ against international Communism.
TNA’s bookshop on the ground-floor will also have a range of history books devoted to all aspects of Britain’s role in the Cold War and to the more general ‘freeze’ in international relations that occurred during the Cold War period.
For more details on the Cold War season and information on ticket prices and availability, see: nationalarchives.gov.uk/coldwar
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The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9-4DU
Nearest tube station: Kew Gardens Station – District Line and London Overground