Dr Stephen Goss

Location: Reading, Berkshire
About The Speaker...

An academic historian published in peer-review journals who has been a popular speaker in local historical societies and community groups for a decade.

About Their Talks...

With me you get history based on the highest standard of research and analysis – presented in an engaging, witty and enjoyable way. I tailor my talks to suit your audience; I guarantee you will be fascinated with the insights and hear humorous anecdotes which will stay with you.
I am also a multiple award-winning tour guide with 100% positive reviews on TripAdvisor. If you would like a walking tour, or a combined talk and walk, please contact me. Each of my talks are accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. I can provide laptop, projector, microphone and speaker if necessary.

However, as an Ulsterman, I can address any size of audience effectively without aid, and nonetheless ensure it is engaging. Let me know what you need and I am happy to accommodate.


My standard fee is £90 for a 60 minute talk

My Contact Details:


'No tolerance of undeserving rank and splendour': the wit and satire of Gilbert & Sullivan

Discover the witty commentary on contemporary society with a look at the stories behind some of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most famous – and less well known – pieces of music.
Uncover the thinly veiled satire of some of the plots, what motivated Gilbert to write certain operas, and unmask the characters which were deliberate parodies of certain specific Victorian politicians and notables.

The talk/course not only provides context to the operas, but also gives an insight into British society, history, culture, and world view in the Victorian era. If you are interested in British Nineteenth Century history – this is the talk for you.

From Partition to Protocol: the history of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was the sticking point over a negotiated deal to leave the EU. It remains a problem which the Windsor Framework has failed to solve. Teresa May’s government was dependent on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party – who objected to and helped bring down her exit deal.
This talk/course explains why there is a ‘Northern Ireland’, its history, the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement, and why it has been such a bone of contention for London and Brussels as the UK has attempted to unentangle itself from the EU.

The Secret history: Britain and the Cold War

This talk/course looks at the contribution and response of the UK to the Cold War. Starting in 1945 and continuing to Britain’s significant role in the collapse of the Soviet empire, it covers some of the most intense moments of the international conflict.
Revealing the impact that global tension had on the UK as a whole, it takes the international conflict down to the local level; how would where you live have fared? Was your town or city on the Soviet target list?
The talk/course reveals how the various elements of society responded. The approach adopted by communities, the press, the main churches, students and other opinion formers is revealed. Additionally, amongst other revelations, clandestine arrangements, debates over nuclear weapons in Northern Ireland, the plans for secret bunkers and covert co-operation between the Catholic Church and the – supposedly – neutral Irish Government to stop communism in Italy are all revealed.

The untold story of the local impact of the Cold War and HM Government’s plans for a post-apocalyptic Britain.

The war that no one wanted: the origins of the First World War

The First World War was one of the most shattering conflicts of the Twentieth Century.
This talk/course outlines the international developments that resulted in the First World War. It will cover the unification of both Italy and Germany, the domestic situations in the great powers and key European players, the impact of empire-building and the situation in the Balkans. The intricacies of international relations in the period are outlined to provide an understanding of why Europe was plunged into such a devastating war. Weaving these considerations together, it will put the First World War in context and explain why a dispute in south-eastern Europe was so quickly transformed into a fight to the death for the Continent’s great empires and powers.

‘This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years’: the origins of the Second World War

Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch accepted the German surrender in November 1918. The peace terms he advocated were so punitive that German would not have posed a threat to France again. According to Churchill, when he heard the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Foch responded: ‘this is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years’. He was proved right.
This talk covers the international and domestic chaos into which the once Great Powers were thrown by the First World War. It addresses the grievances of the defeated powers which led to the rise of extreme left and right-wing regimes. It will outline the political state of the victorious nations in the inter-war period, the impact of the Great Depression, the failure of the League of Nations, as well as the origins and effect of appeasement.
The Great War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. This talk explains why the most devastating conflict the world has ever know occurred a mere two decades later.

From Doomsday Book to listening in for doomsday: Caversham Park’s 930 years at the centre of history

First recorded in the post-Norman invasion Doomsday Book, Caversham park has played a surprisingly central role in English, British and international history for nearly a millennium.
The seat of the so-called ‘best knight whoever lived’, who was related to the man who brought about the English conquest of Ireland. The Manor of Caversham was embroiled in the Reformation, was owned by cousins of Elizabeth I – who not only gave their name to current streets in Reading – but guarded Mary, Queen of Scots.
Caversham Park both entertained the first two Stuart Kings – and then became a prison for Charles I. Learn about its role in the Glorious Revolution, the War of Spanish Succession, and its connexions to the American War of Independence.

The estate became a refuge in the First World War, and was taken over by the BBC during the Second. Hear how it became a centre for intelligence throughout the Second World War, the Cold War and the ‘War on Terror’.

This talk reveals how an estate on the north bank of the Thames was a surprising tour de force in global events from the Norman Conquest to the threat of Soviet annihilation.

'This is the room from which I will direct the war': Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms

n 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave the go ahead for the creation of ‘Central War Rooms’ – a top secret bunker from which the Government could safely fight another war should it come. The War Rooms were operational one week before Britain once again found itself at war with Germany.
On a tour of the bunker shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Winston Churchill stepped into the War Cabinet’s meeting room and said, ‘this is the room from which I will direct the war’.
Hear how a collection of basement rooms under the Treasury building served as the centre of Britain’s war effort. What came to be known as the Cabinet War Rooms was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Churchill. The talk takes you around the top-secret corridors of the War Rooms and provides an insight into what life was like in the bunker, the vital work carried out there, and Churchill – the man and war-time leader.

Testimonials & Reviews

‘Dr Stephen Goss gave us, in the Open University History Society, an excellent presentation in connection with the Wit and Satire of Gilbert and Sullivan today. Most enjoyable, I enjoyed singing along to the songs and discovering facts about the characters in the Opperettas’

Eryka – OUHS – December 2023

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