Chris West the author of First Class, a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps gave a fascinating talk here at the BPMA in February which is now available to download for free as a podcast.
Drawing on his book, Chris showed how stamps reflected our history and vice-versa. The abdication of Edward VIII and the Thatcher era are just two of the subjects covered.
First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps by Chris West (cover)
The British Postal Museum & Archive podcast makes available recordings of our evening talks programme. Episodes can be downloaded from our website or via iTunes.
Find out more about our talks and other public events on the Events page of our website.
Buy Chris West’s First Class, a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps from the BPMA online shop.
On Thursday 21 February Chris West, author of First Class – a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps, will give a talk at the BPMA in London. Chris’s book explores British history as illustrated by our most expressive, quirky, beautiful and sometimes baffling stamps.
Drawing on his book, Chris will tell the story of how the Penny Lilac united a nation in 1881 and examine the controversy surrounding the Edward VIII stamp of 1936. More recent history such as the punk era and the Prime Ministership of Margaret Thatcher will also be explored.
Tickets to the talk First Class: A History of Britain Told Through 36 Postage Stamps can be purchased through our website at the cost of £3 per head, £2.50 for concessions.
Read Chris West’s blog A Cup of Tea and its consequences, or purchase First Class – a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps through our online shop.
Posted in Events, Philatelic, Postal History
Tagged book, British history, Chris West, Edward VIII, First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps, Great Britain stamps, Penny Lilac, postage stamps, Postal History, stamp collecting, stamp design, stamps, talk
Chris West explains how he came to write the book First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps.
Like many of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, I had a stamp collection. A rather mediocre one… But one Sunday, I went to tea with my great uncle.
I happened to mention that I collected stamps, and Uncle Frank said he’d done that too. He disappeared and came back with a dark blue ‘Lincoln’ album. Inside was a treasurehouse of stamps featuring Edward VII and Queen Victoria – including a Penny Black (it had a corner missing, but still…) Frank then said that he didn’t really bother with them any longer – did I want them? The album became my pride and joy. I even took it to school to show everybody. Sadly, one viewer was so impressed that he stole half the stamps. The collection never felt the same afterwards, and vanished into an attic. Forty years later, I was cleaning out the attic when I came across the album. For a moment an old fury came back, but then I decided that a much healthier reaction was to reassemble the collection.
The ‘Seahorse’ stamp.
British Empire Exhibition 1924 stamp, 1d value.
As I did this, I found myself ever more intrigued with the stamps, as items of beauty but also as tiny pieces of history. Who stuck this Penny Black on an envelope, and what was in the letter? More generally, what was Britain like at the time? I found envelopes that had been sent in Ireland around the time of the appalling famine, a Seahorse sent just before World War One, a stamp celebrating the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 (an event I had never heard of, but which was as big as the Olympics in its day), an envelope that had enclosed a censored letter from World War Two, the classic 4d stamp celebrating the 1966 World Cup win… Stamps, I realised, tell stories.
Finally, I assembled these stories into a book, that would tell the nation’s tale through its stamps – or 36 of them, anyway. It’s been a joy to research and write. And all thanks to my great uncle and a cup of tea one Sunday afternoon.
First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps is available from the BPMA online shop.
Chris West will give a talk based on First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps at the BPMA on Thursday 21 February 2013.
Posted in Philatelic, Shop
Tagged Britain, British Empire Exhibition, British history, Chris West, first class, First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps, Great Britain, Great Britain stamps, history, penny black, philately, seahorses, stamp collecting, stamp collection, stamps