Second Part

0:09:07 Got a first and was quite sure I wanted to be an academic; by the time I took Schools I had got a senior scholarship at St Antony's College which was a pretty new college then, and was also for people working on mainly twentieth-century history and politics; Bill Deakin, who was the Warden, believed in having one or two people who studied earlier periods; I went there as a Senior Scholar and was in the process of enrolling to do a DPhil with John Cooper, who was a very formidable presence on the Oxford scene, a Fellow of Trinity and a very severe critic of people’s work; originally I was going to do a life of Robert Cecil but Joel Hurstfield wrote to say that he was about to publish the definitive life (which of course he never did); then I was going to study the court of James I; the reason for that was that at this time, in 1955, the really fashionable historical subject was the rise of the gentry and the social conflicts that had supposedly precipitated the Civil War; I was going to study the court of James I rather in the way that Gerald Aylmer was doing the court of Charles I; at that point I sat the All Souls fellowship exam and got a fellowship and it was indicated to me that it was not the thing to do for an All Souls' Fellow to do a DPhil; the fellowship was without any commitment for the first two years, after which you had to decide whether you were going to be an academic or go out into the world, but in either case it was seven years altogether; of course it was a big turning point in my life - one day a penniless graduate student, and the next day dining with cabinet ministers and judges; then my interest fluttered from one topic to another; first of all I was going to do something on the antiquarian movement, then I was working on religious toleration in the seventeenth-century, and I came across the very strong argument made in the 1640s that you couldn't allow people to chose their own religion because it would break up the family and subvert the authority of the father; that got me interested in the relationship between women and sectarianism and I published an article on 'Women and the Civil War Sects' in Past and Present; it was a large article, partly about women and partly about the family, but they took just the part on women; then I was going to work on the history of women and the first lectures which I offered at Oxford, which was encouraged at All Souls, were on the relations between the sexes in England from the Reformation to the First World War; I was a very innocent unmarried person at that time, and of course virtually nobody came; there was later correspondence in the New York Review of Books about why nobody came to these lectures because Olwen Hufton had suggested I was before my time; there a robust rejoinder by Fiona MacCarthy that it was because I was a totally obscure figure of whom nobody had heard; she was right about that but wrong about the reason because when I went to St John's, which I did the next term, I lectured on Aristotle, Hobbes and Rousseau, which was a compulsory subject, and it was packed out; I stayed with the history of women for a bit and wrote an essay which was published as an article, called 'The Double Standard', which I sent to the Journal of the History of Ideas; then I was regarded as a sort of sex maniac; in those days half the books you wanted to read on the subject in the Bodleian needed special permission; there was not any feminist agenda initially, but I did become rather a feminist in the sense that I was quite influenced by Simone de Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex'; I certainly took the view, which indeed I still take, that men and women are completely malleable, and their lives are shaped by the culture in which they live, so was quite radical from that point of view

8:06:14 Both those articles I wrote when I was at All Souls between 1955 and 1957; in 1957 I applied for a tutorial fellowship at St John's and moved there although I still had five years of my All Souls fellowship to run; Christopher Hill was horrified when I asked him to supply a reference as he did not consider it a good college; anyway, I went to St John's and was extremely happy there; had twelve tutorials a week and two lectures courses a year, but I didn't mind that; in those days the research ethic of today didn't really exist, so nobody ever asked me what I was working on, and of course some of my colleagues weren't working on anything; I enjoyed the teaching very much; I suppose history was slightly run down at St John's when I went there, but I had some very brilliant pupils straight off; my first pupil was Peter Burke who was a very taxing pupil because his essays took about four minutes for him to read, so by about five past twelve his contribution was finished, but at the same time he had said everything there was to be said on the subject; for a young tutor filling fifty-five minutes was a yawning gap; then there was Brian Harrison and Prys Morgan; Brian came the year after Peter Burke and he was the exact opposite; his essays took up the hour easily, by which time he had said all there was to say on the subject; he wrote capacious and very well written essays; he became a nineteenth-century historian; he also did the Italian Renaissance special subject so I did less with him and with Peter; Brian certainly played a part in my election as President of Corpus later on

12:58:19 I hated the time preparing lectures and settled down into a rather idle rhythm; I did revise the Aristotle, Hobbes and Rousseau each year, nevertheless they were the same lectures, and I gave them for twenty odd years; I had a special subject class which counted as a lecture so I didn't do much lecturing otherwise; with teaching you taught over quite a wide range and that involved a lot of reading, so my time was largely devoted to it but I found it very rewarding; at that time people read their essays; nowadays they are handed a reading list with the page reference and even the shelf mark to save them the trouble, although the lists I gave were oral; now it is much more streamlined and it is quite clear what the syllabus is, which was not the case in my time; like Christopher Hill, I was keen that if people wanted to write about a particular subject they should do so, though I was more concerned than he was that it would help in the end; the Hill method was all very well for people who were self-motivated but there were a lot of thirds in Balliol who would have got seconds in another college; I don't think things have improved with much more formal guidance; it is technically more efficient with ever better exam results, though how much is grade inflation I don't know; I think it leads to much less intellectual initiative and that is somehow reflected in academic writing; far too much of it is written entirely within the paradigms of another scholar and modifying it, so people don't do their own thing in quite the way they used to; I do feel that has something to do with this type of teaching

16:43:03 I had a special subject class, Commonwealth and Protectorate, with John Cooper; it was a competitive exercise because we spoke on alternate weeks, and essentially we were delivering research monographs with the other as the main audience; that is how I came to write about the Levellers; I edited the Oxford Magazine in 1961 and that was when I reviewed Evans-Pritchard’s pamphlet on 'History and Anthropology' enthusiastically; Lawrence Stone asked me to expand my review for a seminar he was running, and then to publish in Past and Present; so I suddenly found myself the person who was applying anthropology to history, but I was still pottering along with the Levellers and seventeenth-century history in no particular direction; it was when pursuing a Leveller, Richard Overton, for the purpose of one of the classes with John Cooper, that I read a manuscript, pinned inside one of William Lilly's case books; it was a question from Overton asking him whether he should go on being a Leveller; this, of course, drew my attention to astrology; one of the problems that people took to Lilly was whether they had been bewitched; that really was how I got launched on 'Religion and the Decline of Magic'; for the purpose of writing the article on history and anthropology I had read quite a lot; when I sent an offprint of the article to E-P he responded with a sardonic note that I seemed to have read more anthropological works than he; I knew him but I wasn't close and I didn't find him totally sympathetic; I did haunt the Institute of Social Anthropology and gave papers there; I knew the Lienhardts, Rodney Needham, Peter Rivière and John Beattie; I used to go to the seminar occasionally

20:37:18 The book 'Religion and the Decline of Magic' was essentially descriptive; I began with Lilly's astrological case books and this was an aspect of seventeenth-century life with which I was wholly unacquainted; it became quite clear that it was an important element as Lilly and his colleagues had over two thousand cases a year with people on all social levels coming to him for help and advice for a wide range of problems; the first question I asked was why did they go to an astrologer, and what was it about astrological practice that made it so popular; to answer that question I drew a certain amount by analogy on what African diviners did; then one of the problems was whether they had been bewitched; there had been writings about witchcraft, but it was a seriously understudied subject, and obviously a serious preoccupation, though not of our time, why was it then?; that pretty quickly brought up the question of the relationship of these practices to the orthodox religion of the day; I came to the view that the orthodox religion of the seventeenth-century had been purged of a good number of its "magical elements" which had been very conspicuous in the later middle ages, in that people quite frankly turned to religious remedies for practical help in daily life, a notion that Protestants very strongly repudiated, as probably did some high Catholic intellectuals; the first criticism was that there was more witchcraft in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than I allowed for; I persist in thinking that there was a very big difference in the status of village magic in the nineteenth century and that in the sixteenth, and the fact that the educated class dismissed the whole thing is pretty important; I think that a lot of the functions discharged by the cunning men in the sixteenth century are discharged by other agencies in modern society, whether it is the police finding stolen goods or modern medicine curing people, or the whole range of counsellors, psychiatrists etc.; the problem of explaining the decline in magic before the introduction of these modern substitutes is still not fully resolved, though the eighteenth century anticipates the modern secular world in lots of ways; the nineteenth century saw a reversion to religion; the eighteenth century aristocracy were pagan and the mausolea they built for themselves rather demonstrate that; but it is difficult to explain

27:26:19 I do still work in the Bodleian with piles of books beside me; I read very fast and omnivorously; my doctrine is that to understand the period you should acquaint yourself with all the material available; the rapid reading I do is largely on secondary sources; a seventeenth-century text of any substance I would read more slowly, though somehow the passages that relate to my interests come out at me; now this skill has been made totally obsolete by the 'Early English Printed Books' and the eighteenth-century collections online; anyone now can type in "witchcraft" and get all the references to it in the English printed literature; of course search engines only pick up words and oblique references are impossible to find online; the index method I developed for 'Religion and the Decline of Magic', I still use; when I read anything I make notes and if it is a book put the page number on the left-hand side, if a manuscript I put the folio number; with a seventeenth-century sermon of two pages I might have noted over thirty points; when I get home I put a short title reference at the top of each point, I get out a pair of scissors and cut them into slips, and file them away in different envelopes according to the topic they relate to; of course, this is potentially a terrible method because the obvious objection is that you have completely lost the context; for a time I used to keep two copies, one the original set of notes unmutilated, the other, the slips; I found that too expensive so don't do that now; what I do do is when I use any of these in publishing I go back and look at the context; I never publish anything without checking the notes which is very time-consuming; Christopher Hill was not tremendously accurate in his notes, and really did quote out of context; I am very self-conscious that this method could lead to decontextualized discussion; there is a problem with following this method over time as one forgets the original conceptual scheme; all one can do is keep the whole thing alive by looking at these envelopes quite often, then taking things out and putting them somewhere else; the other problem is that one particular passage might relate to half a dozen of the subjects; I am afraid I have large piles of unfiled slips; whenever I have a spare moment I do try to work on the pile; the great example of the weakness of this method is Lord Acton, but what is the alternative? - to have a lot of research assistants and that I have never had

36:50:21 I went to St John's in 1957 and became an ad hominem professor in 1986,  held that for nine months and then went to Corpus; the years at St John's were in many ways my most productive period; in the 1960s I achieved a certain notoriety with the anthropology article and then an article in the TLS on history and the social sciences; somehow this turned into a great diatribe; I am a pluralist now about what historians should do; I have more respect than I did for the old-style English Historical Review type of mediaevalist; though I was interested in statistical methods I have never practised them myself as I don't think they would take me very far in my period; if you were writing on twentieth-century history, statistics are important; I do think that if quantitative statements can be made with some precision then they are useful; I have got less quantitative in my own writing; I was attacked by John Cooper and Richard Cobb because they hated the idea of the white-coated American technocrat historian; rightly, they also thought that I had been insufficiently respectful to my predecessors; the other influence on me was the Annales school - not the Annales of hard quantitative history, but the Annales of Lucien Febvre and what is now called cultural history but wasn't then; I think Peter Burke was the first professor of cultural history; I happened to find that temperamentally more sympathetic in that I was not much interested in people as statistics, but was interested in what went on in their heads; I have got more interested in the values, norms, tastes, outlook, mental assumptions of the people of the time; I suppose most of my work after 1971 was a sort of move towards an ethnography of a kind, but an untheoretical ethnography, a descriptive ethnography of early modern England in which almost any aspect interests me

43:02:10 I don't consciously have any models among historians of the past; there were books at the time that I thought were marvellous like Ladurie's 'Montaillou'; that was absolutely panned by the mediaevalists because of its cavalier use of the sources, but it struck me as an exemplary attempt at what historians of a vanished age ought to be doing; it was turned down by Cambridge University Press and Penguin, apparently because it was about an obscure French village in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; there are many historians whom I admire but don't attempt to emulate; I think Dick Southern was a great historian, and Quentin Skinner is a brilliant writer, there are lots; I was turned off Maitland because of some passage where he almost licked his lips when a serf was sent to the gallows; I felt his sensibilities were not mine; Tawney was a deep influence on me and I admire him very much; Marc Bloch I would certainly regard as a very great historian

46:41:12 The theme of the Trevelyan Lectures I gave at Cambridge was the changing attitudes to the natural world in England between 1500 and 1800 - the attitudes to the treatment of animals, man's place in nature, the classification of the natural world, taste in landscape, ideas of conservation, vegetarian inhibitions; it had green implications but I wasn't at all green at the time, I just had a bulging envelope called "animals"; the resulting book was 'Man and the Natural World'; I argued that the separation of men from the countryside through industrialization was a reason for these interests; my own childhood background is relevant because when I came to the city I was very struck by the difference in people's attitude to animals; we had dogs, but would never have them in the house; we had horses, which were gradually replaced by tractors, but before that they used to pull very heavy loads; that was often quite difficult because the carts got stuck in the mud and the horse strained and couldn't pull it; I remember being appalled at seeing somebody take a pitchfork and beat the horse to get it to move; no doubt you saw something like that with London cabbies in the nineteenth century, but you wouldn't see it today; I did feel that the different sensibilities of urban people come from the fact that they are not immediately materially dependent on either the countryside, which they value for its appearance, or on animals; they don't actually see the process of converting them to meat

50:22:12 I went to Corpus in 1986 and stayed there until I retired in 2000; during that period I took on a great number of other responsibilities too; I developed a bit of a London life; I was put on the reviewing committee for export of works of art, then I became a trustee of the National Gallery and later of the British Museum, and I was on the Historical Manuscripts Commission; meanwhile in Oxford I had been a delegate of the Press since 1980 and I became Chairman of the Finance Committee in 1988, a post which I held until 2000; I was also President of the British Academy for four years in the 1990s; it is a wonder that I got anything done at all; another thing, I was chairman of the supervisory committee of the 'Dictionary of National Biography', which was quite a big thing; multiple committees cancel each other out as each provides an alibi for not going to the other one; of course I had a secretary which made a lot of difference - when I retired from Corpus I had not been in a post office for fourteen years; I did enjoy the committee work; first of all they were all concerned with activities I thought worthwhile; I also felt I'd had quite a good time at St John's and should be putting something back, but also you have the illusion of doing things and seeing an immediate result, and I liked the sociability and met all sorts of interesting people in the context of all this; it is a great protection against anxiety as you are not sitting at your desk wondering what is the answer to your current problem

54:21:15 Valerie was a teacher of English at Oxford High School; it was quite a demanding job as it involved an enormous amount of marking; she reads everything I write; I have a daughter, Emily, who is a classics don in Cambridge, and a son, Edmund, who is a lecturer in Roman architectural history in Durham; also have three grandchildren and they are all exceedingly musical; I gave the Ford Lectures which resulted in the book 'The Ends of Life'; they are a series of studies in the values and objectives which people at all social levels pursued either consciously or unconsciously; there are extended discussion on military prowess as a form of masculine fulfilment, or work as a source of fulfilment or a curse, or material wealth and possessions, honour, reputation, friendship, and posthumous fame; they are based on quite extensive reading and are meant to be a further contribution to this ethnography of early modern England; now I have to put together three volumes of essays, some which have been published before; I also gave some lectures in Jerusalem some years ago which are to be published, on civility and ideas of civilization in the early modern period; the three volumes have an overall title of 'Approaching the Past'; on advice I would give a student, the first thing I would say would be do you want to be an academic in this country in the present circumstances as universities have changed so much; they are much more regulated so less satisfying; I had wonderful freedom and could go at my own pace; now people are expected to lay eggs with great regularity and I think that means that universities are not quite so obviously the home for the more questing spirit; after that I would say avoid all my mistakes and don't fritter your energies on lots of different topics, stick to one thing and see it through