This year's Harrogate History Festival will feature appearances by big-name authors such as Bernard Cornwell and CJ Sansom, debates about Viking poetry and the killing of the princes in the tower - and a retelling of the myth of Noah's Ark. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

HARROGATE has assembled an epic line-up of historians and writers of historical fiction for the second Harrogate History Festival this October.

Bernard Cornwell - creator of Sharpe and author of a more recent series of Anglo-Saxon novels set during the time of King Alfred - will be flying in from the US to talk about his latest novel, The Empty Throne, as well as his first non-fiction book, Waterloo.

Other giants of historical fiction making an appearance during the three-day festival at the Old Swan Hotel from October 23 to October 26 include Conn Iggulden and CJ Sansom, author of the Matthew Shardlake novels set in the time of King Henry VIII.

James Naughtie - best known to millions of listeners as a fearless interrogator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - will also be in town to talk about his debut novel The Madness of July, a political/ espionage thriller set mostly in Westminster during a hot summer in the 1970s, while broadcaster and novelist Sandi Toksvig will reveal her choice of Desert Island Books (which may or may not include Mary Renault, Rosemary Suttcliffe and James Fenimore Cooper).

There will be plenty for lovers of historical fact as well as fiction - including Alison Weir debating with Sarah Gristwood what really happened to the 'princes in the tower', and broadcaster Peter Snow talking about his new book When Britain Burned The White House: an account of an incident 31 years after the American War of Independence when British troops really did burn the seat of the US President.

Panel discussions will include New Blood (showcasing the best new historical writers), the role of the supernatural, and an exploration of Vikings in an age of blood and poetry, while for Downton fans there will be a discussion on social history seen through the eyes of those who served below stairs in If Walls Could Talk, featuring Dr Pamela Cox, author and TV presenter of the BBC’s Shopgirls.

All this plus Dr Irving Finkel, assistant keeper of ancient Mesopotamian scripts at the British Museum, talking about his radical reinterpretation of the myth of Noah's Ark - and much more.

“History is in the throes of a cultural renaissance dominating our bookshelves and TV screens," said Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals. "This is is a fantastic opportunity to grapple with leading literary minds on some of the most gripping conflicts, personalities and epic tales in history.”

BLOB Harrogate History Festival, October 23-26, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate. To find out more or to book tickets, visit or call the Box Office on 01423 562303.