Living History

"Exploring the past with the aim of bringing it to 'life' implies that we should see, feel, hear, smell and taste the past so that we can ultimately 'experience' life as it was led by our forebears." B. Goodacre & G. Baldwin (2002) Living the Past, p.10.


Maureen James believes strongly in the value of Living History as a means of communicating about the past. Using objects, anecdotes and stories, the medium encourages empathy and this engagement enables the understanding of the past and has proven to be a great way of encouraging reminiscense. She presently offers four living history activities:

Cowslips, Cuckoos and Candles

A Living History activity and display for Museum and Heritage sites and for events that celebrate aspects of Victorian life.

Maureen James has been building on the years of research for her PhD, on the folklore of Lincolnshire and the Fens, by setting up a Victorian Living History display and demonstration. This activity received a favourable reception in the Heritage area at the 2012 Heckington Show and then at Gloucester Through the Ages and at Sherwood Forest through the Ages.

Maureen provides artefacts, images and text to illustrate folk beliefs and the annual folk calendar. These, when accompanied by age related commentary, have been shown to successfully provoke reminiscences from the more senior members of the audience and interested comments from the younger.

Maureen portrays a fictional late Victorian folklorist (named Wilhelmina Peacock) and is often accompanied by her husband Stuart (as her cousin Adrian Fowler).


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Votes for Women – Edwardian Suffragettes and Suffragists 1914

A new Living History Activity which illustrates the struggle of women to obtain the right to vote during the wider Edwardian period from 1901 – 1919.

The term 'suffragette' was initially used as a term of derision to refer to activists in the British women's movement, particularly members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). This organisation, which was founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst, adopted militant tactics, which included chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows and even detonating bombs. One active suffragette, Emily Davison, died at the Epsom Derby on 5 June 1913 whilst trying to throw a 'Votes for Women' banner over the King's Horse. Other suffragettes are remembered for their being force-fed during a hunger strike whilst in Holloway Prison.

When Britain became involved in the First World War, Emmeline Pankhurst instructed the WSPU to  suspend their militant actions and support in every way, the war effort. For the work done by women during the war, Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act in 1918.

Suffragette 3Suffragette 3

Maureen portrays a fictional suffragette at a time shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. As such, she does not chain herself to railings or jump under a horse as part of this presentation, but rather shows some artefacts and posters and tells the stories of the people whose lives and actions illustrate the aims of the campaign.


Suffrage Poster: Suffrage PosterSuffrage Poster: Suffrage Poster


Free the Slaves – Regency & Georgian Period Abolitionists

The second of the new Living History presentations, in this activity Maureen James will draw on her wealth of knowledge about the campaign to abolish Slavery throughout the British Empire.

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and following on from the successful campaign to abolish the British Slave Trade in 1807, this activity will look back at the previous campaign and highlight the diverse methods being used by the British to continue to help “the injured Africans”in opposition to the French who had initially abolished slavery in all its possessions in 1794 but had, under Napoleons instructions, reintroduced the practice in 1802...


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Goody Burder's Gossiping – Civil War and Witch-hunts remembered

A revival of an old friend...this Living History presentation involves Goody Burder who tells tales and describes events from the seventeenth century.

Goody Burder is a character that Maureen James has used a number of times in Huntingdon for the Cromwell Museum, leading storywalks around the town.

Now, drawing on her folklore research, Maureen will extend the presentation to not just comment on seventeenth century events but also focus specifically on the fear of witchcraft and the reason why so many old women where suspected of such practices.

This presentation will also include a display of a number of relevant artefacts.


17th Century Walk: In the courtyard of the George Hotel Huntingdon17th Century Walk: In the courtyard of the George Hotel Huntingdon


Requirements for the Living History Activities

Each of these displays can either be installed within your premises (for which a long table is required) or we can provide the Telling History cover (for which an area of 7 metres square is required for the structure including guys).