Episode 20: Graffiti

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

For this episode let us join the hitman of history, Dr. Sam Willis, and the Donatello of dates, Professor James Daybell, as they shake up their aerosol cans and spray paint the unexpected history of graffiti. Our very own Banksy and Scampi will take you on a journey from Plymouth and Brexit vandalism to SS. Great Britain and the gold rush of the 1850s, from Totnes Castle and World War Two prisoners to a Cambridgeshire church and the plague year of 1515, and from modern day Iranian street art to the Emin minaret in Turpan, China.

Sam and James will throw-up the tags to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: boredom, identity, communication, repression, expression, social emancipation, symbolism, territory, counter-cultural propaganda, and hidden voices. Want to find out where to look for examples of graffiti? You may want to head to the cubicles of the men’s toilets of Oxford’s Bodleian Library , take a notebook and pen to record the most intellectual and erudite of graffiti!

Romanes eunt domus’, people called Romanes, they go, the house?’

Vocative plural of ‘Romanus’ is? …

…‘Romani ite domum

Now write it out a hundred times’ (John Cleese and Graham Chapman, Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’)

‘All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars’.          (Banksy)

More Podcasts

Episode 67: Invasion! & TV History

6, 4, 2018 - For this episode let us join Professor James Daybell, the gardener of all of yesterday’s roses, .... Read More

Episode 15: The Zebra

27, 12, 2016 - Welcome to the wonderful world of Histories of the Unexpected. Your guides, for this adventure .... Read More


14, 4, 2020 - In this episode James and Sam explore the Unexpected History of SOAP, which is of course all .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected