81. Bells

Monday, October 8th, 2018

‘Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof:’ (Leviticus 25:10 – inscribed on the Liberty Bell). Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things you never knew had a history, like the history of blood or the history of chickens.

Let us quickly join the Elvis Presley of priest-holes, Professor James Daybell, and the Bismarck of battles gone-by, Dr Sam Willis, for the curtain is about to rise up and the performance is about to begin, and for this episode the bell is truly about to ring! Our two ardent campanologists ring a ding dong as they discover the unexpected history of bells. From the royal wedding celebrations of Prince Harry and Megan Markle in the Yorkshire town of Otley to the measuring of time during a ships watch, from Pentonville prison and Victorian hard labour to the order silencing church bells given in June 1940, from Napoleon’s money-making scheme to the wreck of HMS Association in 1707, and from the promise of Black Beard’s treasure in modern North Carolina to Catholic purgatory and the European Reformation, this historical adventure promises to resonate!

Sam and James sound the alarm to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: communication and propaganda, social order and regulations, invasion and political power,  cultural destruction, desecration and appropriation, worship and ritual, reform and change.

When is a bell like a triangle, or is it never like a triangle? James and Sam discuss this intriguing line of enquiry.

‘Ring out the false, ring in the true’ (In Memoriam, by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

More Podcasts


14, 4, 2020 - In this episode of Histories of the Unexpected, James and Sam explore the unexpected history of .... Read More


25, 11, 2020 - LOSERS! In this episode, the Histories of the Unexpected duo, James and Sam, scour the archives .... Read More

Christmas MicroHistory 5: Spite!

21, 12, 2020 - This is the FIFTH of our special Christmas-themed micro-histories in which we will embrace the .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected