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This talk will offer an historical tour of the world beyond the grave as imagined by ordinary men and women from the Middle Ages to the modern age. It takes in what a medieval manuscript reveals about ghosts of the Yorkshire Moors; a seventeenth-century sensation about a phantom drummer, and what the theatre of execution has to tell us about the nineteenth-century afterlife. It explores what was durable in our ancestors’ beliefs about death and the dead, and raises questions about profound change in attitudes at work in the modern world.
Dr Carl Watkins grew up in Warwickshire and went up to Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1990 where he read History. He is now Senior Lecturer in the History Faculty and a Fellow of Magdalene College. He writes about belief in, and beyond, the middle ages, focusing especially on death, the afterlife and the supernatural. He has contributed to a number of BBC radio programmes including Radio Four’s The Long View and to television documentaries by BBC and Channel Four.