Candidate Profile

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Author / Writer
Diplomacy & International Affairs
History - General
History - Military
Politics & Current Affairs
John Penycate is a television journalist with a hard-to-match record at the top of his profession. He is also an author, university lecturer, media-trainer and cruise-ship lecturer.

John was born and educated in Guildford. At Oxford University two of his contemporaries were Pythons Terry Jones and Michael Palin (and both are still his friends). John’s first serious job was as a researcher on David Frost’s ground-breaking show on ITV in the ‘60s. John joined BBC TV Current Affairs in 1968 and was a producer on, successively, 24 Hours, Midweek and Panorama. In the mid-‘80s he went front-of-camera, and for the rest of his BBC career was a Correspondent for Panorama, Newsnight or The Money Programme. He left the BBC’s staff in 2002 (but still broadcasts occasionally).

John travelled extensively in his job, reporting from such places as Iraq, Afghanistan and Argentina during the Falklands war. He covered the troubles in Northern Ireland, and wars in Africa. He interviewed dozens of political leaders worldwide, and – for The Money Programme – business leaders like Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black. His was the last television interview with the late Robert Maxwell.

With colleague Tom Mangold, John wrote the Vietnam war non-fiction bestseller The Tunnels of Cu Chi. First published in 1985, it is now a classic, still in print and about to be made into a film. John also co-wrote the life of a serial murderer, Psychopath.

He has taught broadcast journalism to graduate students at Westminster University and Goldsmith’s College, London University. He trains businesspeople and public officials for media appearances. On cruise-ships he lectures on both current and historical subjects, and has made light-hearted after-dinner speeches.

John lives in London. He was for eleven years on the Council of the Media Society, and has been elected to membership of the Garrick Club, the Hurlingham Club, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the Pilgrims’ Society, and the Royal Television Society.

He intends to go on skiing and playing tennis for as long as he can. He has been married to Evelyn, a human resources professional, since 1977.

(Click image for full size)
Lectures already given - all fully illustrated with images and film:


1. Christians v. Muslims: the Siege of Constantinople
The momentous battle that led to the capital of Christian Byzantium becoming Turkish and Islamic, the future Istanbul.

2. Who's Afraid of Will Shakespeare?
Recent discoveries shed fresh light on the career of the giant of world drama. John is an Oxford English graduate.

3 & 4. Crimea 1854-56, Britain's War against Russia (in 2 lectures)
Balaclava, Sebastopol, the Alma - battlefields etched into Britain's collective memory. John tells you the reasons why.

5. South Africa's Wars: the dramatic history of that beautiful country evokes memories both heroic and shameful for Britain, and for Africans of all races.

6. The Fall of the Romanovs: the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II to 1905
St Petersburg, the Romanov dynasty, and the harbingers of revolution.

7. The Fall of the Romanovs: Rasputin & the Haemophiliac Prince
Rasputin - holy man, lecherous rogue, or both? And who killed him, and how did he die?

8. The Fall of the Romanovs: the Revolution and the Murder of the Imperial Family
Triumph of Communism or a people's tragedy? Plus the tragic and cruel death of the tsar, his wife, children and servants.

9. Deception in World War II
Recently declassified files reveal war-winning plots of fascinating ingenuity.

10. Atom Bombs & the End of World War II
Did the atomic bombs really end World War II and save lives, or might they have been unnecessary?

11. The Vietnam War - 'As bad as a day in the 'Nam'
The war America lost. Why did it happen, and why did it all go wrong?

12. An Army of Moles: War in Vietnam's Tunnels
The Vietcong's underground secret weapon. John is co-author of the bestselling The Tunnels of Cu Chi.


13. The Demographic Time Bomb
Too many people in the world, or too many of the wrong age? Demography concerns everybody.

14. The Future - Devout or Secular?
Are the world's religions gaining new adherents and growing, or is faith declining with the advance of secularism? John addresses the question in a spirit of total fairness and objectivity.

15. Understanding the British Media
John, a former BBC TV Correspondent, gives you a unique insider's viewpoint on how newspapers and broadcasters operate.

Plus several other lectures in an advanced stage of preparation on such topics as: the Falklands war, the history of Venice, Stalin in World War II, the siege of Leningrad, the war in former Yugoslavia, the Mafia, the Spanish Civil War, and many others.
Lectured on ships belonging to Voyages of Discovery (4 cruises), P&O, Cruise & Maritime (2 cruises), Fred Olsen (2 cruises), Cunard (5 cruises), Saga, Silversea (2 cruises), Viking (6 cruises) and Windstar (2 cruises).
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Viking Sky SK170729 Viking Homelands 14 Stockholm Saturday, July 29, 2017
Viking Sky SK170715 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Saturday, July 15, 2017
Viking Star ST160904 Viking Homelands 14 Stockholm Sunday, September 4, 2016
Viking Star ST151215 Mediterranean Getaway 7 Civitavecchia (for Rome) Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Viking Star ST151208 Romantic Mediterranean 7 Barcelona Tuesday, December 8, 2015