Cold War Season at The National Archives

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In April, The National Archives launches its Cold War season with the opening of an insightful exhibition ‘Protect and Survive: Britain’s Cold War Revealed’. This free exhibition will be accompanied by a series of lates, talks and panel discussions, film screenings, creative workshops and family activities, exploring the reality of life in Britain under the persistent threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War era.

Our first event of the season, An Evening with Dame Stella Rimington, takes place on Friday 5th April. Now a best-selling thriller writer, Dame Stella was appointed Director General of MI5 in 1992, the first woman to take the post and the first Director General to be publicly named. She retired in April 1996. The talk will focus on her career followed by an opportunity for questions. Advance booking for mailing list subscribers opens on 13th February, with tickets on general sale from 20th February.

Commenting on the season, Dame Stella said: “The Cold War formed an important part of my career and is an integral part of the nation’s history. The records held at The National Archives give a fascinating insight into the threats this country faced.”

The season will coincide with a number of significant Cold War milestones, opening on 4th April, exactly 70 years since the foundations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were formed with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, and continuing until November, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Original documents and exclusive interviews with key players and historians will provide a multi-faceted depiction of the Cold War period, from espionage to British culture and Civil Defence. The immersive exhibition will recreate a government bunker and a 1980s living room, showing the impact of the Cold War on the government and on ordinary people’s lives. Visitors will see a range of archival material including George Orwell’s infamous list of suspected communist sympathisers, memos written by Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill and a plan of Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb’s fateful spy mission.

Other highlights announced so far include Archives at Night: Cold War Revealed, a late event in May; a summer cinema season showing notable films of and inspired by the period, such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold; as well as a range of family events and activities, and an extensive programme of talks and lectures throughout the season.

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