Resistance by Moonlight

There’s always a slightly awkward moment when you talk to a room full of history enthusiasts about your favourite item in a Military Aviation Museum. For me, it’s not the Hawker Hunter in which Neville Duke broke the Air Speed Record, nor even the wreckage of a Hawker Hurricane shot down in the Battle of Britain. My favourite item, as I nervously admitted, is a … Continue reading Resistance by Moonlight

A gown for all ages: landscapes, objects, and family in a global context

On October the 16th, we christened my daughter Penelope. Having family and friends come along for the service, next to our new house in Motspur Park, felt like a milestone in our lives. When we first spoke about the Christening, my Mum mentioned that my Gran had looked out the gown that I was christened in. I thought it sounded really nice to re-use the … Continue reading A gown for all ages: landscapes, objects, and family in a global context

Strength to Remain

Let’s not retreat into the nostalgic past, nor forfeit our influence. Let’s not surrender to fear & doubt. Let’s strive to remain together. Big organisations are messy by nature. The BBC has been described as more a warring federation than an organisation, bound by little but a collective commitment to its mission and its values; the NHS seems a vast, sprawling enterprise sometimes united only … Continue reading Strength to Remain

Guarding the Limits: Voices & Memory in an Age of Narrative

Historians aren’t meant to see the future, though sometimes it feels like we’re expected to. We all know the adage that it’s meant to repeat itself, and know also that it doesn’t. Sometimes, however, the present can seem out of kilter with the past, or even over-whelmed by it. Debates about memory seem to confirm that the growing importance of ‘Identity Politics’ (which as a … Continue reading Guarding the Limits: Voices & Memory in an Age of Narrative

Encounters with History – Institut Français, 9th November 2015

Many key debates in the United Kingdom centre on the role of historians in society. In assessment exercises, we are encouraged to break beyond the boundaries of academia. In the media, research is repackaged and offered to the general public. There is can be an intervention in popular discourse, or serve simply as entertainment. Popular projects seek to engage and foster partnerships between researchers and … Continue reading Encounters with History – Institut Français, 9th November 2015

Myths, Battle & Rail: Two Stories About Waterloo Station

UPDATE: Here’s a video of me talking to The Independent about Waterloo and its contemporary importance On the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, it makes sense to think about myths, about legends and about national identity. To be honest, you’ll struggle to avoid these things. There are 2 key myths surrounding Waterloo station that relate to the battle, both of which it seems are pretty much false. … Continue reading Myths, Battle & Rail: Two Stories About Waterloo Station

Echo Chambers and Exit Polls

I’m still stumped, I suppose. It’s tough for me to get my head round what happened, and so I’m writing this partly as a way of digesting the events of Thursday night and Friday morning. Polling stayed locked in a dance of minute intricacy, a slow suite building towards crescendo. Steady numbers, fluctuating almost imperceptibly, seemed to establish a digestible narrative that convinced us all … Continue reading Echo Chambers and Exit Polls

Tale of Two Cities: Memory, Identity, Maps

Memory is a rich and powerful intoxicant. It can be as seductively misleading as it can be corrective. By invoking memory and heritage we can chide as we inspire, promoting a sense that life’s challenges can be more ably met when clad in the armour of past experience. Significantly, this has often been the case with national identity, and memory has often framed the values … Continue reading Tale of Two Cities: Memory, Identity, Maps

Pseudo-Padres Hiding in the Lavatory: An RAF Escape Exercise, 1943

Continuing in the series of comical findings from the archives, I thought I’d relate details of an RAF Escape Exercise that took place on 16th December, 1943 at RAF Tangmere. It sounds like a mixture of the Great Escape and a Carry On film, and I like it for the way it shows the preparation and resourcefulness that continued to happen during the War. I’ve … Continue reading Pseudo-Padres Hiding in the Lavatory: An RAF Escape Exercise, 1943

‘The World is too much with us’: Scotland & Britain After the Referendum

The principal figures that emerged from the debate with their reputations enriched were not callous youths, but wizened campaigners. Salmond led a campaign that seemed to energise and undermine political engagement in equal measure. By drawing people into the Yes campaign, he created a surrogate for traditional civic institutions. Inclusivity drove engagement with the cause and activated a core of the electorate previously not well … Continue reading ‘The World is too much with us’: Scotland & Britain After the Referendum