Neil Meldrum

Location: Poole, Dorset
About me...

I have been a lawyer for some 40 years. Now retired, I have the opportunity of indulging my fascination in all things to do with ancient history and the cultural evolution of mankind.  Although an amateur, these are compelling  subjects (well to me) which have been undergoing considerable re-appraisal in recent years.

My talks range from the development and the cultural  evolution of early man to the Maya and Aztecs of Ancient  Mexico and the Incas of Peru, areas that I have visited  extensively.  More recently I have been focusing on early culture in Ancient China, India, Egypt and Mesopotamia and in particular looking at early religions in these regions.

About my Talks...

Usually my talks are about an hour or so (and I do relish Questions). I have power-point presentations although I am quite happy to give a talk without any visual content (for some of the talks it can be less distracting!). In my talks I try to show some relevance that the subject of the talk has to the present day. There is invariably some degree of continuity and connection. If it is felt that your group might be interested in gaining some historical or cultural perspective in a subject not that close to home either in time or space, please do get in touch.


My fee is £50 within ten miles of my home in Poole, Dorset. Travelling expenses of 40 pence a mile for a venues further afield. I am quite happy to travel.

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The Enigmatic Ancient Maya

Have you ever wondered about the fascinating and enigmatic civilisation of the Ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala? Why and how did they develop such a brilliant and original civilisation in the jungles of Central America, and why did it apparently disappear? Let me take you from their early development to their glorious apogee around 700-800 AD.  Join me in a tour of their wondrous cities, and mysterious culture which has been made so much more accessible by the deciphering of their strange hieroglyphic writing.  And then lament their tragic downfall, so soon after such an effervescence, but again relish their subsequent glorious but short-lived resurgence.

The Puzzling Aztecs of Mexico

Come with me and find out a little about the brilliant but flawed civilisation of the Aztecs of Mexico. I talk about the Aztec’s dominance of Mexico just before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the astonishing civilisations that came before them. Marvel at Tenochtitlan, the Aztec’s magical capital in the middle of a lake, and wonder at their strange and bloodthirsty religious rights. I discuss their fatalistic outlook and try and make some comparisons with civilisations in the Old World. Although the Aztecs had achieved much, they inevitability fell to a small but ruthless group of Spanish Conquistadores in 1521, I try to explain why.

Ancient Civilisations of Peru.

Like the Aztecs in Mexico, the Incas of Peru were late arrivals, thousands of years of civilisation preceded them in Peru. Let me take you through some of these intriguing and beguiling cultures so alien to anything in the Old World. Facets of these cultures are now coming to light through the extensive archaeological work being carried out throughout Peru. I will explain how these cultures culminated in the Incas establishing one of the world’s greatest empires just before the fateful arrival of the Spaniards in 1532. The Inca Empire was huge and organised but still the Incas succumbed to the Spanish Conquistadores and their unquenchable hunger for gold. I try to explain why.

Ancient China

China is often described as having the oldest continuous civilisation in the world. In this talk I focus on the foundations of this extraordinary civilisation which were laid out during the second millennium BCE. I recount how this civilisation matured and expanded in the bloody battles and purges of China in the first millennium BCE. I explain some of the principles of Confucianism and Daoism, and how these doctrines, so alien to the West, came to dominate Chinese culture through to the twenty first century. Finally, I try to bring together some of the diffuse elements in ancient Chinese culture which led to the creation of the first Chinese Empire by the ruthless Shi Huangdi in 221 BCE.

Ancient India

India in the First Millennium BCE, after the arrival of the nomadic Aryans, was a cultural and religious maelstrom. But this millennium saw the beginnings of the development of the richly diverse Hindu culture which became the foundation stone for the fabulous and equally diverse Indian civilisation of the next two millennia. I take you through this early era, focussing on the religious, ascetic and cultural influences in India and how these culminated in the Buddha. I talk about early Buddhism and its impact, initially in India, but subsequently far beyond. I finish my recounting the glories of the reign of Asoka (268-323 BCE) in India, arguably one of the world’s greatest, but least known, emperors.

Human Evolution

The story of our development from when our ancestors first walked upright down to when we became big brained modern humans and spread throughout the world. When did we become Homo Sapiens, at what stage in our development were we able to think ‘beyond the box’, what is culture and how did it emerge and grow? These are questions upon which no clear consensus has emerged or indeed may ever emerge. However, I am happy to put myself in the firing line and come up with a few (reasonably accepted) answers. This is a talk which revolves around the latest ideas on human evolution and the reason why these ideas will themselves continue to evolve.

Cultural Development of Mankind

Cultural evolution or development is generally accepted as being distinct from the idea of physical human evolution.  Essentially it’s the difference between the physical evolution of the body and the brain as opposed to the development of the human mind i.e. how and why our minds within our brains began to function in the way that they do. I will talk about these distinctions and the impact that cultural evolution had on early societies. I explain how these early societies evolved into complex civilisations and discuss whether and how cultural evolution is still ongoing.

(this talk differs from the talk on Human Evolution principally in terms of the time span. Briefly, the talk on Human Evolution would take us to say approx. 60,000 years ago, whereas Cultural Development would go from that time down to 1000 BCE. There would inevitably be some overlapping but not a great deal.) (If preferred I could present a talk briefly covering both topics explaining the difference between the two approaches)

Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia

The astonishing Old Kingdom civilisation of Ancient Egypt and those Wonders of the Old World, the Pyramids.

Alternatively the ingenious Sumerians of Mesopotamia who appear to have been the instigators of all civilisation.

These are the world’s two oldest civilisations. I would be pleased to present a talk on either one of these two absorbing subjects. Each of the talks would deal with why the particular civilisation started at that time and in that place and the world views of the peoples concerned. Alternatively I could present one talk contrasting and comparing the two civilisations. Either way your audience would gain a compelling insight into what made these two earliest civilisations tick.

The Axial Age.

The period of time between 800 and 200 BCE is sometimes referred to as the Axial Age. This was a period when there were simultaneous major changes in outlook in different and apparently unconnected civilisations throughout the world. In this talk I will try and explain what was going on during this tumultuous period in human history, and whether these developments were in fact unrelated. I will summarise the major changes in religious and philosophical outlook which developed in this period across diverse regions of the Old World. And I will highlight how these changes differed depending on the culture involved and how those changes still impact the world today.

Early Beliefs, Religion or Superstition

At what stage in human evolution did the supernatural begin to feature in the human mind? How did the supernatural consciousness develop into a general religious awareness? Is religion an inevitable part of evolution or simply a means of describing the inexplicable in the primitive mind. Early religious awareness is a fascinating albeit somewhat controversial subject. I will attempt to highlight some of the features currently being considered in relation to early religious development as dispassionately as possible, focussing on the implications to ancient society rather than on the supernatural.

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