David Price

Location: Nottingham
About The Speaker...

Public speaker and adult education tutor with many years’ experience of giving talks to various groups, including U3As, women’s institute branches, townswomen’s guilds, Probus, and history societies. I was previously based in Northamptonshire and Rugby, but I now live in Nottingham and so am well placed to travel to locations in Nottinghamshire and parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

About Their Talks...

My talks are all history based but often using musical works or art to illustrate historical subjects. My aim is to make the audience forget their dry-as-dust history lessons at school and instead make history entertaining! I have a particular focus on France in the 19th century – I wrote a book on the Cancan dance, published in 1998, and this involved extensive research into the social history of France from the 1830s through to the fin de siècle. So I include a talk on the history of the Cancan, one on the background to the blockbuster musical Les Misérables, and others on the Haussmann redesign of Paris, on the notorious Courtesans of the Second Empire, and on the Dreyfus Affair. I also include talks relating to my study of the Soviet Union at university and my work at the BBC World Service covering Eastern Europe under communism.


My fees vary depend on the size of the group. I charge £80 for groups up to about 50 people, £100 for between 50 and 100, and £130 for over a hundred. I try to limit my driving to no more than an hour.

My Contact Details:

07528 756124

Kicks and Frills: The Story of the French Cancan

Did you know that the first cancan dancers were men?! Or that the original dance was a ballroom dance, and it was only much later that it became an all-women chorus-line stage dance? These and other curious facts are revealed in my talk on the cancan, based on my book, Cancan!.
The cancan first appeared in 1830 and by the 1860s people were describing it as the “French National Dance”, but it’s most associated with the 1890s, when Toulouse-Lautrec’s famous models La Goulue and Jane Avril were dancing at the Moulin Rouge.
Illustrated with film clips (with music), and contemporary photographs, cartoons and paintings.

The Truth behind Les Misérables

The phenomenally successful musical Les Misérables is based on a novel by the French author Victor Hugo, who was actually living in political exile on Guernsey while he was writing. It’s set in turbulent times in France, climaxing in the July Rebellion of 1832, which was brutally suppressed.
But why did people rebel and what were they fighting for?
And are the main characters in the novel and the musical – Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Javert, Eponine, and Marius – accurate reflections of real-life people? With slides and musical extracts.

Notorious Ladies of the Night: the 19th Century Parisian Courtesans

In Second Empire Paris, the courtesans were regarded with more fascination than ladies of the aristocracy – and they were often as rich and nearly always better dressed! Yet many were originally poor working-class girls who had caught the eye of rich gentlemen and so embarked on a career of pleasing men, being showered with gifts and money in return.
They weren’t only sought after for sex: many were highly intelligent and witty conversationalists, well versed in the arts, literature, and politics – much more so than most “respectable” women of their day.
Illustrated with photographs, cartoons and paintings from the period.

Carmen: Bizet’s greatest failure

It’s hard to believe but Carmen’s first performances in Paris in 1875 were poorly received by audiences and critics. Its composer, Georges Bizet, was very upset and angry and lamented that Parisians had “not understood a wretched word of the work I have written for them”. He died a few weeks later and so never saw Carmen receive the praise it deserved. This talk looks at the historical background and the nature of society in Paris at this time. With slides and musical extracts.

Haussmann's Re-design of the City of Paris

The Paris we know today, often referred to as the “city of light”, was created during the French Second Empire under the supervision of the prefect of the Seine département, Baron Haussmann. He was chosen for this task by Emperor Napoléon III, who wanted a capital city he could be proud of, with elegant buildings and boulevards that would impress foreign visitors. But he also wanted to destroy the old Paris, with its dark narrow streets that were so easy to barricade in times of revolution.
This talk describes this grandiose project and how it affected the people of the Paris, causing hardship for the lower classes and providing luxury and security for the bourgeoisie. With slides.

The Life and Times of Franz Lehár and The Merry Widow

Perhaps surprisingly, the operetta The Merry Widow was highly controversial when it was first performed in 1905. It actually caused riots in Croatia, and in Germany, a local dignitary called for it to be banned because it was so indecent! None of this prevented the composer Lehár becoming a millionaire many times over through its worldwide success.
But notoriously it was Adolf Hitler’s favourite musical work – and this fact probably saved the life of Lehár’s Jewish wife when the Nazis marched into Austria. With video, photographs, and art works.

The Truth Behind the Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is set in Salzburg, Austria at the time of the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. It focuses on a “postulant” from the local convent who is sent to be a governess to the seven children of Captain Georg von Trapp, a former officer in the Austrian navy. Maria and Georg fall in love and marry and eventually have to flee to Switzerland from the Nazis, who are determined that von Trapp should take a commission in the German navy.
But how much of this was true? Maria von Trapp created a mythology around the family singing group that varies enormously from reality, and the creators of the musical took even more liberties. This talk will try to establish the facts about the Trapp Family singers. With musical extracts.

The Truth Behind Fiddler On The Roof

Fiddler On The Roof remains one of the best-loved musicals and it was responsible for raising awareness of the plight of East European Jews at the turn of the twentieth century. For many Jews in the United States it was a very important work for other reasons, because it celebrated their traditions – and even created new ones! But the universal themes of family life appealed to a much wider audience than Jews alone, and the musical was also recognition of the success of the American Dream – in which the USA has been a welcoming country for so many different races and groups fleeing persecution and hardship.

The Dreyfus Affair

Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer in France who was court-martialled for treason in 1894. Found guilty, he was sent to Devil’s Island in the Caribbean and many ordinary French people hoped he would die there. But he was completely innocent and eventually pardoned. The Dreyfus Affair exposed deep divisions in 19th-century French society, which some believed might lead to civil war. This talk examines the story and the historical background to the case. Illustrated with slides.

Women of the Russian Revolution

We often hear about the men who led the Russian Revolution in 1917 but very rarely anything about the women. There weren’t many intellectuals in Russia before the First World War, but many of them were women, and some played significant roles in the revolution.
One of these, Alexandra Kollontai, became a prominent government minister and later her country’s ambassador to Sweden. Another woman, Fanny Kaplan, effectively undermined the ideals of the Revolution by attempting to assassinate Lenin in 1921. He never really recovered, allowing Stalin to seize power, and later to turn the clock back for women’s rights. Illustrated with photographs.

David Price Contact Details:

07528 756124

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