Paul Smith

Location: Bourne, Lincolnshire
About me...

I am a qualified archivist. I studied medieval history, languages and literature at university, but my professional career has been spent almost exclusively in corporate archives. I worked for Barclays and Guinness in the early 1990s, before joining Thomas Cook in 1996. For more than two decades I was responsible for preserving and promoting Thomas Cook’s heritage, which spans 178 years from 1841 to 2019. I provided historical information and images to countless researchers from across the globe. Following the collapse of Thomas Cook in 2019, the archives were transferred to the Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Away from the office, I love playing sports, especially table tennis, and support Wolverhampton Wanderers. I also enjoy watching films, researching my family history and setting fiendish quizzes!

About my Talks...

Most of my talks focus on Thomas Cook and his son, John Mason Cook, looking at how they helped to make travel easier, cheaper and safer for millions of Britons in the Victorian era. My lectures are illustrated with photographs, posters and documents from the Thomas Cook Archives.
I have my own laptop and digital projector, but a screen (or blank wall) would be very useful.


I charge a fee of £50 for each talk, plus reasonable travel expenses (25p per mile) if the venue is more than 10 miles from my home in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

My Contact Details:

07563 729802

“Thomas Cook and the Origins of Popular Tourism”

This is my most popular talk, and it has evolved over the past 15 years. It focuses on Thomas Cook, a man widely regarded as the father of popular tourism, and his more commercially-minded son, John Mason Cook. Thomas conducted his first excursion, a 12-mile rail journey from Leicester to a temperance meeting in Loughborough, on 5 July 1841. This short trip marked the beginning of his venture into the world of travel. Over the next three decades, Thomas Cook led his customers into Europe, across America, up the Nile and, ultimately, around the globe.

“Around the World in 222 Days”

In September 1872, at the age of 63, Thomas Cook departed from Liverpool at the head of a small party of travellers on a journey that would keep him away from home for a total of 222 days. His tour included America, Japan, China, Singapore, Ceylon, India and Egypt. Based on Thomas Cook’s personal accounts of his adventures, this talk presents an absorbing account of the first personally-conducted tour of the globe.

“Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal”

In the summer of 1863, Thomas Cook escorted his first tourists to Switzerland. Among these pioneering travellers was a group of seven friends who dubbed themselves the Junior United Alpine Club. One of their number, Miss Jemima Morrell, who described herself as an artist, recorded the adventures of the group in a journal, which she also illustrated. Lost for decades, this journal eventually turned up in London after the Blitz and found its way to the Thomas Cook Archives, where it remains to this day. The diary contains a unique and delightful account of the early days of European tourism.

“Tourists and Booking Clerks – Records for genealogists in the Thomas Cook Archives”

This talk discusses the contents and role of the Thomas Cook archives. This unique collection of travel-related material includes photographs and diaries, brochures and posters, maps and timetables, tickets and other travel ephemera, business correspondence and artefacts. My presentation will focus in particular on those records, such as staff magazines, contracts of employment and passenger lists, that might prove useful for family historians.

Testimonials & Reviews

‘Just to express thanks to Paul, on behalf of our U3A History Group for such an excellent presentation. Everyone enjoyed his company, and I would like to let him now that there was a lot of praise for his exceptional knowledge on “Thomas Cook and the Origins of Popular Tourism”
The hour Paul used to give his excellent presentation absolutely flew past. Really looking forward to inviting him to be with us again, so we can hear the next installment of the continuing story of Thomas Cook.
Would definitely recommend him – time and again! Thank you Paul’

Jackie – U3A – September 2023


‘Paul gave a talk to our local history group. The talk was extremely interesting, well researched, and illustrated. Paul certainly knows his subject well and is very experienced in delivering a talk effectively. The comments from our members were all positive. I would highly recommend Paul – an excellent speaker!’

Sarah – July 2022


Paul Smith Contact Details:

07563 729802

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