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The Death of Nelson: Fact or Fiction
September 12, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Speaker: Laurence Brockliss
More biographies have been written about Nelson than any other Briton. All of them end with exactly the same account of Nelson’s death on HMS Victory on 21 October 1805. The talk will suggest that the traditional story is an elaborate fiction. Nelson was definitely mortally wounded on Victory’s quarter deck in the course of the Battle of Trafalgar but what purportedly happened on the orlop deck as he lay dying should be taken with a pinch of salt. The talk will discuss the source on which the story is based, challenge its reliability and explain how and why it was concocted. In so doing, it will introduce a little known figure in Nelson’s entourage, William Beatty, Victory’s surgeon.
Laurence Brockliss is an emeritus professor in history of the University of Oxford and an emeritus fellow of Magdalen College. He is a specialist on eighteenth and early nineteenth century French and British history and the author of numerous books, including the co-authored Nelson’s Surgeon: William Beatty, Naval Medicine and the Battle of Trafalgar (2005). He recently published the official history of the University of Oxford (2016) and is at present completing a study of the British professions in the nineteenth century.