Lancaster University and Litfest announce major annual history lecture

Sathnam Sanghera in front of some trees and a building
Acclaimed journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera. Photograph Credit: Chris Durlacher

The ‘Lancaster History Lecture’, an initiative between Litfest (Lancaster Literature Festival) and the Department of History in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster University, marks a new stage in the creative relationship between the two.

The inaugural lecture will be given by acclaimed journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera on March 20 at 7pm in the Margaret Fell Lecture Theatre at the University as part of Litfest 2024.

Sanghera’s book Empireland (2021) is said to have changed the way we think about history and Britain’s place in the world, winning the 2022 British Book Award for Narrative Nonfiction and inspiring the Channel 4 Documentary ‘Empire State of Mind’.

At the Lancaster History Lecture Sanghera will speak about the importance of history and the humanities in understanding the world – and in shaping the world – and discuss the legacies of the British Empire across the globe, drawing on his new book Empireworld.

Professor Edward Simpson, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at Lancaster University, said: “The University values its collaboration with Litfest and is excited that the inaugural speaker for the first Lancaster History Lecture should be a writer who has radically changed the way we view the history of the British Empire and understand the contemporary world.”

Chair of Litfest Julie Bell said: ‘We are thrilled to be initiating an annual history lecture with Lancaster University as part of our joint programme to make academic scholarship accessible to a wide audience and especially that Sathnam Sanghera should be our first speaker.”

Details of all Litfest 2024 events will shortly be available at

Sathnam Sanghera was born to Punjabi immigrant parents in Wolverhampton in 1976. He entered the education system unable to speak English but went on to graduate from Christ’s College, Cambridge with a first class degree in English Language and Literature.

He has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards twice, for his memoir The Boy with the Topknot and his novel Marriage Material. Empireland has been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, was named a Book of the Year at the National Book Awards of 2022, and inspired both the Channel 4 series Empire State of Mind and Sanghera’s children’s book about the British empire Stolen History.

His latest book published on February 2024 is Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe. He lives in London.

Event moderator is Will Pettigrew, a Professor of History at Lancaster University. He is the author of Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company (winner of the Jamestown Prize, 2009) and Global Trade and the Shaping of English Freedom (OUP).

His work assesses how the history of Britain has been shaped by global forces as well as the effects that Britain has had on the rest of the world. He is the leader of a £1million Arts and Humanities Research Council research project investigating the significance of the transatlantic slave trade to Britain’s economic, political, and cultural development.

Litfest aims to stimulate, promote and reflect the best in contemporary literature, illustration and ideas in the UK and beyond. As one of the oldest literature festivals in the country, Litfest has successfully created a wide variety of events for its audiences since 1978, always championing the local, the national and the international.

Currently a volunteer-led organisation, Litfest now seeks to build on this legacy to create the capacity to deliver projects and events throughout the year, leading up to and away from the spring festival in March and autumn festival in October.

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