Tom Macan

Tom Macan

Tom Macan is a retired British Diplomatic Service Officer with extensive experience of western and central Europe, the Caribbean, South Asia and the Portuguese-speaking world. His final post was that of Governor of the British Virgin Islands, having previously been Ambassador to Lithuania and Deputy High Commissioner to India. Previous overseas jobs included a total of eight years in Germany (five of them as Press Secretary), and four-year stints in both Brazil and Portugal, the last as No 2 in the Embassy. In three postings in the Foreign Office in London, he headed the Training and Commonwealth Departments, and earlier had responsibility for maritime and environment issues and for aspects of policy towards the United Nations. He now lives in his native Lake District where he is a qualified Blue Badge Guide for Cumbria. He has a passion for anything that floats on water – particularly maritime history, sailing (he holds a Coastal Skipper certificate) and above all steam-powered craft. His other interests include history and geography of the Lake District, church architecture, hill walking, public administration and local/regional government issues. He is a keen driver and long-time member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. He is married to Janet, a US citizen (they met in Brazil in the 1970s) and they have two adult children.

Tom Macan can offer a wide range of destination-linked lectures addressing both historical and contemporary issues, in many cases drawing on his first-hand experience as a UK diplomat overseas.

THE BALTIC SEA: HISTORIC HIGHWAY: An overview of the 1200 years of trade and conflict which have made the Baltic what it is today. And a look at what the future might hold.

THE BALTIC STATES: FREEDOM REGAINED BUT NOW AT RISK? Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have proud centuries-old traditions. They regained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Can they sustain it?

TSARS, COMMISSARS AND PRESIDENTS. A thousand years of Russian history, focussing on the role of St Petersburg, imperial capital from 1702 until 1917.

KRONSTADT: THE TSAR’S REDOUBT AND TROTSKY’S TRIUMPH: A scenic commentary on the history of the Kronstadt naval base and what we can see today, delivered as the ship transits Kronstadt on departure from St Petersburg.

EUROPE’S BORDERLANDS: AN IRRECONCILABLE LEGACY? The simmering conflict in Ukraine reflects the tortuous history of the region where Europe’s Eastern and Western traditions meet. Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Austria and Russia have all seen it as “theirs”: no wonder peace remains elusive.

BERLIN: CITY REUNITED. A personal look at how a city has changed from Cold War flash-point sustained by the Allied Powers of US, UK and France to becoming again capital of a reunified Germany.

THE HANSA: TRADING ACROSS EUROPE. From its Baltic roots, the network of the Hanseatic League traded as far as Bergen, Novgorod and London, and was an important influence on the development of medieval, northern Europe: their legacy is still with us.

THE KIEL CANAL AND THE GERMAN EMPIRE. Shortening the route from the Baltic to the North Sea was a dream of traders and naval planners for centuries but the “busiest international waterway in the world” is the child of the German Empire. Why was it built, and what is its significance today?

BRITAIN’S VIKING HERITAGE. Invaders from Denmark and Norway overran 9th century Britain as raiders and settlers and Orkney remained Norwegian territory until 1472. Today, the evidence may not always be obvious but it’s still there if you know what to look for.

PORTUGAL'S GLOBAL REACH: THE STORY OF HER NAVIGATORS AND HER EMPIRE. Portuguese seafarers were the pioneers of 15th century exploration and created an empire from China to Brazil which lasted until 1974.

PORTUGAL AND BRITAIN: THE OLDEST ALLIANCE. Linked by treaty since 1387, sustained by trade in port, textiles and codfish and now tourism, few countries have closer links and they still matter today.

ANY PORT IN A STORM? Madeira and port are Portugal’s best-known alcoholic exports, both with close links to Britain. But there’s a lot more to Portugal’s wine and cork industry today.

WELLINGTON AND THE PENINSULAR WAR. Four years of hard-pounding in the Iberian peninsula preceded Wellington’s victory at Waterloo. His bases in Portugal and the tough Portuguese soldiers in his army, to whom he was devoted, were a key element in his success.

BRAZIL: THE COLONY THAT TURNED INTO AN EMPIRE. The “accidental” discovery of Brazil in 1500 made Portugal the richest country in Europe and provided a haven for the Portuguese monarchs when Napoleon invaded. In 1822, it declared itself independent and an “Empire” in its own right.

BRAZIL: 21ST CENTURY HOPES AND REALITIES. Two strong-men Presidents and a Military Government drove Brazil forward in the last century. But are the country’s aspirations to world power status now faltering?

MAN AND THE AMAZON: WHO’S WINNING? Explored for 400 years, exploited since the advent of the steamboat in the mid-19th century and now a focus of global environmental interest and concern: what does the future hold for the world’s largest river basin?

THE CARIBBEAN: LEGACY OF EMPIRES AND SLAVERY. Who were the Caribs; why are most of the place-names Spanish; why was slavery so important; how did the French and the British get involved; why did colonialism end; and what does it all look like today?

BRITAIN AND THE CARIBBEAN ACROSS FOUR CENTURIES. Fortunes were made and lost, wealth generated by slave-plantations had a huge impact on cities like Liverpool and Bristol, post-war immigration created significant Caribbean communities in Britain. An overview of this complex legacy.

UNCLE SAM’S BACKYARD: 200 YEARS OF CARIBBEAN/US RELATIONS. From the Monroe Doctrine via Panama and Cuba to the War on Drugs, the US has often called the shots in region. What lies behind US policy, and where is it going?

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS: CARIBBEAN PARADISE OR JUST REMNANT OF EMPIRE? A heady mixture of offshore finance and high-end tourism, hurricanes and drug-traffickers: just what were the challenges faced by a Governor of the British Virgin Islands?

SLAVERY AND SUGAR: THE TERRIBLE TWINS. Sugar and slavery were inseparable and gave rise to the Triangular Trade through which fortunes were created. The rise of anti-slavery movement led to the traffic declared illegal and eventually abolition in 1834. But the legacy is still with us

THE CARIBBEAN: THE ROYAL NAVY’S PLAYGROUND?. Today the RN supports the Overseas Territories and prosecutes the war on drugs. But it can look back on a 400 year history in the region, from Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua to the daily the rum ration.

SUEZ, KIEL AND PANAMA THREE CANALS THAT CHANGED HISTORY. Panama was the last of the three great sea canals of the 19th century: what were the different drivers behind these huge enterprises, and what are the issues they face today?

STEAM LAUNCHES: ENGINES OF EMPIRE AND RICH MEN'S TOYS. The “African Queen” was only one of thousands of steam launches from British shipyards, who also built increasingly luxurious and fast launches for wealthy individuals until reliable petrol engines displaced steam. But the tradition lives on today.

THE ENGLISH LAKE DISTRICT: HOW POETS OPENED OUR EYES. Until the late 18th century, the Lake District was perceived as a “horrid” and frightening place, but the Romantic Poets changed all that. Now, visitors come in their millions, but does this put the area’s attractiveness at risk?

ExpertiseDiplomacy & International Affairs History - General History - Maritime Politics & Current Affairs
Cruise Experience as Speaker/TutorRegular lecturing assignments since 2013 with Viking Ocean, Saga, Thomson, Crystal and Fred. Olsen.


Politics & Current Affairs
Architecture & its History
Diplomacy & International Affairs