Interview with a Historian

In my ramblings through historical materials on youtube, I came across this fantastics Interview with historian Sir Brian Harrison. 

Harrison, former Professor of History at Oxford, talks about coming up as a history student in the 1950s in elite British circles. He reflects a bit on the uniqueness of his situation, and his surprise at ending up in a privileged position. He also describes how different the job market was in his day. He got his first job at Oxford through an invite to dinner party. There was no formal interview, little sign of a formal search, just the old men picking their new colleague.

Harrison discusses the old methods of using cards to take notes, and typewriters to put it all together. I like his thought about curiosity and collecting facts wherever he goes. Unlike me, he dislikes giving lectures, preferring instead the “tutorial system.”  Some of the Britishisms can be confusing. I don’t know what it means to “get a first” at Oxford. I don’t know what A levels are either.

The world of British history academia seems quite small and interconnected. I get the feeling that the country could produce many more great historians than they have space for.

There is so much in this interview, I can’t begin to cover it all. Harrison’s voice is a bit slow, monotonous even, but proper, rhythmic, and precise. His stories of personal experience teach so much.

As for Harrison, I admire his personality, most of all his humility, his honesty, his doubts. These kinds of videos are a good education for up-and-coming historians.

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