Simon Schama. Pics supplied by Ox Lit fFst

As if this year’s Oxford Literary Festival wasn’t triumphant enough, two more dates have been added, bringing two of the world’s most famous historians to Oxford – Simon Schama and Irene Vallejo.

Award-winning historian and broadcaster Professor Sir Simon Schama will be introducing his new book Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations at The Sheldonian at 6.30pm on May 22.

Sheldonian Theatre. Picture by Ed Nix

Spanish historian, writer and philologist Dr Irene Vallejo will also be talking about her global bestseller Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World.

Schama will take you right back to the 18th and 19th century, with gripping stories of pandemics such as smallpox striking London, plague in India, and cholera in Paris.

He will introduce you to a wonderful cast of characters including a philosopher-playwright burning up with smallpox in a chateau, a vaccinating doctor going house to house in Halifax, and a woman doctor in India driving her inoculator-carriage through stricken streets.

Simon Schama. Pics supplied by Ox Lit fest

At the heart of it all is the gun-toting Jewish microbiologist Waldemar Haffkine, who was celebrated in England but cold-shouldered by the medical establishment of the British Raj. Despite creating the world’s first mass production line of vaccines in Mumbai, he was still brought down in a shocking act of injustice. Book here

Then on June 6, Irene Vallejo will be interviewed by Peter Kemp about her global bestseller detailing the creation of the earliest books and the literary culture of the ancient world.

Irene Vallejo c James Rajotte

Vallejo will describe how the earliest books made from reeds from the Nile were worth fighting over and dying for, and follows the journey of the earliest books from the Library of Alexandria to the fall of the Roman Empire.

She will also talk about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors and statesmen who had a complicated relationship with books, as well as how the written word has survived today using Aristophanes and the censorship of humorists, Sappho and empowerment of women’s voices, and Seneca as examples.

Peter Kemp. Pics supplied by Ox Lit fest

Papyrus has been published in 30 countries and won numerous awards, and Irene Vallejo will be joined on stage by chief fiction reviewer of The Sunday Times, Peter Kemp. Book here:

To book Professor Sir Simon Schama on Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations at The Sheldonian. Go to

To book Irene Vallejo – Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World – go to.