History and Me: Some Musings
Forgive the autobiographical content but I am often asked about some of the issues discussed below. PS Please just ignore if you can't stand me, I wouldn't want to upset you any more than I normally do.
I can't really remember a time when I wasn't in love with history. My interest has been with me all my life, at least since the age of seven
At seven I was taught for the first time at my Bristol Prep School by a truly inspirational teacher, Michael Cork, whose watch and a few books of his I was left and now treasure.
Yet, I rather fell out of history during my 'O' and 'A; level years. I t all seemed so crashingly boring, but perhaps that was more to do with my teachers than the syllabuses. I only fell in love with the subject again when taking 'A' Level Ancient History. I was taught by a charismatic Welshman, another Michael, Michael Edwards. His sessions on Roman Britain, plus fieldtrips, remain happy memories to this day.
I failed to be offered a place at Oxford to read history (for which I am eternally grateful, because after my 'A' Level experiences I think it would finally have killed off my love for the subject - not those damned Tudors AGAIN!). Instead I was offered a place to read law, and have never regretted doing so; although since the age of seven or thereabouts I knew I only wanted to teach.
I had a lovely year teaching history in a Prep School before reading for an MA in Criminology at Keele (a Sociology degree was de rigeur in the 1960s). From Keele I entered by chance Adult Education in Kent,and began teaching Criminology and Sociology for The WEA and for Oxford Delegacy (Adult Education). From Kingsgate College in Kent, jointly run by YMCA, WEA, and Oxford I left for my first LEA post, newly married, in Stratford upon Avon. I still wasn't teaching history and by this time was really an Organiser of courses.
I began history teaching again in 1980 when I arrived as Principal of The College of Adult Education, Manchester. I had inherited a dreadful financial situation. So when at enrolment I discovered prospective history students were being turned away, because the classes were full, I volunteered myself to take an extra class (no extra expenditure but lots of much needed income). At both Manchester and subsequently at The City Lit I always taught one course a week, plus some Saturday Day Schools, and on the annual Summer Schools.
On taking early retirement in 1995, I turned myself into a freelance historian, and now in my mid 70s finally with just two classes a week at JW3, North London. What motivates me? First my own interest (there is always more to learn) and, secondly, a desire to share my enthusiasm for history with others. One of the quotes I love most about teaching comes from Chaucer, who writes in 'Canterbury Tales' of The Poor Clerke of Oxenforde, 'Gladly would he learn, and gladly teach'. All I have ever wanted to do since seven years old. Not many people can make their hobby into their career as I have done over the last quarter of a century. I feel most fortunate.
I say hobby because none of my degrees is a history degree. I am a professional in as much as I have been paid but an amateur in terms of qualifications. But that is what Adult Education has always been about, enthusiastic tutors sharing their enthusiasm, and having fun along the way. Of course, I take every effort to ensure that the facts I state are correct but as for opinions that is up always to the listener. Terence has a lovely quotation,'Quot Homines, tot sententiae', ie literally, many men, so many opinions - sounds like JW3 if you change men to men and women!