Smithsonian Journeys Experts
Tim Blanning is Professor Emeritus of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge. A Fellow of the British Academy since 1990, Tim has published extensively on the political and cultural history of Europe in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Among his publications are The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture (2002), The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (2007), The Triumph of Music (2008) and The Romantic Revolution (2010). Tim's books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Hungarian, German, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Croatian and Arabic. His most recent book is a best-selling and prize-winning biography of Frederick the Great King of Prussia, published by Penguin/Random House. For his current project on the exciting if notorious Augustus ‘the Strong’ of Saxony and Poland he has expanded his area of expertise to include the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe.
What Our Travelers Say
- Smithsonian Journeys Traveler
Tim was an engaging and inspiring expert and contributed immensely to our enjoyement of this trip. His knowledge of German history and his ability to make it relevant to the areas we visited was amazing. Moreover, he had a great sense of humor and was always willing to answer any questions. Tim was a true pleasure, and we so enjoyed traveling with him!
- Edward F., Holiday Markets
Tim Blanning was a great speaker. Very informative talks done in an interesting manner. Also easy to talk with while touring.
- James H., A Danube River Cruise
Tim provided great information and helped to make the trip more enjoyable and informative.
A Q&A with Expert Tim Blanning
Q. What kinds of insights do you hope to convey to our travelers?
A. In both my lectures and informal discussions, I seek to promote an understanding of the historical context of the destinations we are visiting and the sites we are seeing. However beautiful its appearance, a building, for example, is always more than just a building. It is also a dwelling for memories, achievements, atrocities, excitements, and disappointments. If its past can be recreated and understood, it takes on an extra dimension of understanding and therefore enjoyment. The same applies to the other sites and locations we see, from paintings to landscapes, from battlefields to more mundane places such as railway stations. Always kept in mind is the current political situation in whichever country we find ourselves.
Q. How do you infuse your Smithsonian Journeys cruises with your expertise?
A. I do this in three ways. First, through my lectures. Talking informally, without text or notes, and making liberal use of visual illustrations, video clips, and music, I aim to make my lectures entertaining and interactive. Second, I use the ‘Smithsonian Journeys Travelers’ Corners’ to lead and encourage discussion of the destinations we have seen or are about to see. A sharing of ideas, insights, and information in a common pursuit of understanding is immensely fruitful. Finally, I make myself available at lunch or dinner, on our coach journeys, or whenever there is a free moment to answer questions and engage in discussion.
Q. What sort of topics do you like to include in your presentations?
A. My general approach is to combine the historical with the topical, the past with the present. When travelling along the Danube, for example, I explain how this region came to be so contested, why divisions between the various ethnic/religious groups have been so explosive and where the current conflicts might be headed. This will involve – among many other things – talking about the struggle between Christians and Muslims for domination of the Balkans, the rise and fall of the Habsburg Monarchy, the impact of the two World Wars of the 20th century and the current intrusion of Russian and Turkish interests.
Q. What do you enjoy most about accompanying Smithsonian Journeys travelers?
A. I have always enjoyed talking, discussing, and debating about European history. To do so with Smithsonian Journeys travelers, who are invariably intelligent, interested, and appreciative, is a particularly rewarding experience. Furthermore, having these discussions in a comfortable – even luxurious – environment, in one of the five-star hotels or on one of the five-star river boats used by Smithsonian Journeys, is uniquely enjoyable. As we travel through such a rich variety of locations, all with historical associations, the past can be made to come alive and the present given an extra dimension of meaning.