Friends’ Events in 2021 and 2022

New articles and podcasts are available in the Members’ area and we have more talks planned with a mini series of themed talks around climate change and weather related records in the archives, the Cold War, Spies in the Archives and research methods and evidence gathering.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 3 November 2021 – Peter Williams

Licence to Spy? BRIXMIS and the Search for the Robertson-Malinin Agreement

A little-known feature of the Cold War in Germany was the agreement between the occupying Four Powers to exchange bilateral military liaison missions. The Anglo-Soviet deal, known as the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’, was finalised on 16 September 1946 and permitted the accreditation of 11 officers and 20 other ranks to the other party; the British Mission was always called ‘BRIXMIS’, and its Soviet counterpart was known as ‘SOXMIS’. In April 1947 the French and then the Americans signed similar, but not identical, bilateral agreements with the Soviet commander-in-chief in Germany: their missions were limited to only 18 and 14 members.

For reasons that remain unclear the location of the original, signed version of the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’ has for many years been unknown. Ongoing searches in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, as well as in the Soviet archives in Moscow, have thus far failed to unearth an original, signed version. This talk will descibe what has come to light in The National Archives about the process that produced the Agreement. This research has, for instance, shown that the use of BRIXMIS as an intelligence collection asset was envisaged from the earliest stage of that process, whereas it had long been assumed that this non-traditional ‘liaison’ activity had emerged after the collapse of the era of Four Power collaboration. The talk will also look at how ‘liaison’ protocols and restrictions developed over the course of more than four decades.

Major General Peter Williams read history at Magdalene College, Cambridge before joining the Coldstream Guards and spending the next three decades or so serving in West Berlin, Northern Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, and the former Yugoslavia. In the early 1980s he studied Russian and went on to serve two 2-year tours in the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (‘BRIXMIS’) as a liaison officer. His final posting was in Moscow, where he set up and led the NATO Military Liaison Mission to the Russian Federation from 2002 to 2005. He is Chairman of the BRIXMIS Association.

The event is free to members but guests are welcome to attend for £5 (+ booking fee) per head. The £5 ticket price will be refundable against the cost of membership.

Please use this link to book:

Please note that you do not have to sign in to Eventbrite or create an account. The event details are in a link on the top right of the screen. Clicking that link will take you through to book.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 17 November 2021 – Professor Chris Loveluck

Ice History and The National Archives support new European perspectives 

Case studies from the twelfth century to the modern era will be used to illustrate how the annual resolution of ice-core and textual sources can give unprecedented new insights on the impact of climate change, disease, and human economic activity in the past, and at the same time provide lessons for current and future use. New laser-based analysis of annual ice accumulation in an ice-core from Colle Gnifetti* in the Swiss-Italian Alps is currently providing yearly insights, based on 100-200 measurements a year since the 12th century. The annual resolution of those measurements has given an unprecedented environmental history across two millennia. This has been combined with other geo-archaeological records, cutting-edge atmospheric re-analysis, and research on textual sources to present a unique economic and environmental history for western Europe.

The integrated evidence has shown that for much of the period between the early Middle Ages and the present, many of the climate and pollution signals reaching Colle Gnifetti and trapped in its ice came from the northwest, in other words from Britain. The historical records housed in The National Archives have consequently proved critical to the interpretation of the ice core evidence and the formulation of new European perspectives.

* The Colle Gnifetti research is being undertaken within the auspices of ‘The Historical Ice Core Project’ led by the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, and Harvard University with the University of Nottingham.

Christopher Loveluck is Professor of Medieval European Archaeology in the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Nottingham. He has also been a Visiting Professor in the Department of History at Harvard University, USA, in 2007-8 and 2015-16. Prior to his appointment at Nottingham in 2004, he held postdoctoral fellowships at the Universities of Tours, France (CNRS) and Southampton (British Academy). He has directed and co-directed archaeological research projects across western Europe over the last 25 years.

While in Harvard he began working with the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past and the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, on the Historical Ice Core Project at Colle Gnifetti, Switzerland. He is also currently co-leading a new historic ice research project begun in 2021, on glaciers in Georgia in the Caucasus, with the Climate Change Institute and Ilia State University, Tbilisi.  The findings will hopefully provide insights on historic climate change and human societal trends for the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions to match those being gained for western Europe from the Colle Gnifetti research.

Booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 7 December 2021 – Lord Lexden

Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill: War-time Partners 1939-40

Chamberlain and Churchill were, as is well known, poles apart in the period that led up to the Second World War. As soon as war was declared, they became colleagues, and remained the two leading figures in the war cabinet until imminent death from cancer forced Chamberlain to resign at the beginning of October 1940, Churchill having replaced him as prime minister in May. How closely and successfully did the two former opponents work together in the national interest as Britain fought for its very survival in the summer of 1940? When Chamberlain died in early November 1940, Churchill paid eloquent tribute to him: but some said that the great war leader’s moving words were not sincere, and in his subsequent, hugely influential war memoirs Churchill repeated the attacks he had made on his dead colleague in the late 1930s. In his address, Alistair Lexden will discuss the reality of the relationship between the two men during Britain’s darkest hour, drawing on documents of the period.

Alistair Lexden is a Conservative peer and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, who writes and lectures about modern British political history. He was in academic life at the start of his career at the Queen’s University, Belfast. Subsequently, he held senior positions in the Conservative Research Department, founded by Neville Chamberlain, before spending some years running the Independent Schools Council. He is the official historian of the Conservative Party, and of the Carlton Club. Full details of his work, parliamentary and historical, including his publications, can be found on his website,

Booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 19 January 2022 – Simon Gregor

Germany, the Cold War and the Berlin Wall

Further information and booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 22 February 2022 – Tracy Borman

Crown & Sceptre: a new history of the British monarchy, William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II

Further information and booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk in March 2022 – Ralph Thompson

The Jacobites and International Intrigue 1708-1759

Further information and booking details will follow.


Recordings of past talks and suggested further reading lists may be available. Please see the ‘Archive of Past Talks’ page in the Members area under ‘The Talks Programme’ tab.