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History and Cultures was strongly represented at this year’s Arts & Sciences Festival, with three outstanding events delivered by the Centre for West Midlands History’s James Watt 2019  and John Baskerville teams.

A week of public facing events was kicked off on Monday 12 March with around fifty people filling the Birmingham Midland Institute’s John Lee Theatre for Starting with Steam: the Origins of the Industrial Revolution in Birmingham. Delivered by Malcolm Dick and Kate Croft, this interactive event sought to problematise and gently challenge some commonly held assumptions about the birth and spread of steam power and the industrial revolution more generally. Indeed, audience members were asked to consider-in a light hearted and entertaining manner-whether there had in fact been an industrial revolution at all, and if it was a thing, whether it had ever stopped!

Malcom Dick and Kate Croft speaking at the 2018 Arts & Science Festival, Birmingham

Malcolm Dick and Kate Croft presenting at the Festival

The next day on Tuesday 13 March, in the intimate environment of the Cadbury Research Library’s seminar room, nearly twenty people squeezed in to hear Caroline Archer and Martin Killeen discuss the life and times of John Baskerville, the Birmingham based inventor of the Baskerville font that’s still widely used today. During and after the session, attendees had a rare opportunity to examine in person items from the Cadbury Research Library’s uniquely extensive collection of Baskerville printed books.

Finally, on Friday 16 March a small group gathered, again at the Cadbury Research Library for The Imprint of Steam a session delivered by Kate Croft and Martin Killeen exploring how steam power enabled the spread of scientific ideas and ways of thinking to a mass audience for the first time. Once again, those in attendance were offered a rare opportunity to encounter unique surviving copies of early scientific and steam printed books, all held in the Library’s extensive collection.  

All in the School’s contribution to the Festival (which ran 12-18 March) was a great success enabling as it did around one hundred members of the public the opportunity to engage with, be challenged about, and discover new angles upon; their city, their region, and its connections to the wider world.