On the Spot: Jessie Childs

We ask 20 questions of leading historians on why their research matters, one book everyone should read and their views on the Tudors …

Jessica Childs
Jessica Childs
Why are you an early modern historian?

Because the period is strange and changeful and brimming with intellectual curiosity and wit. And I like the challenge of the handwriting.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?

That nostalgia is for individuals, not states.

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August.

What book in your field should everyone read?

Macro: Global Crisis by Geoffrey Parker.

Micro: The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg.

Which person in history would you most like to have met?

My grandmother, Lara Chumakoff, who saw her father and brother arrested in revolutionary Moscow and, at 16, nursed civil-war casualties on the ship from Odessa.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

My university tutor, Martin Ingram, a historian of sex and the weather and therefore as good a conversationalist as he is a historian.

Which moment in history would you most like to go back to?

I’d enjoy watching Francis I’s smackdown of Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold.

How many languages do you speak?

Poor French, disastrous Portuguese, I read Latin.

What’s the point of counterfactualism?

To exhaust – possibilities and patience.

What’s the most exciting field in history today?

Recusant history. So many brilliant scholars coming up - Emilie Murphy, Liesbeth Corens, Katie McKeogh …

What historical topic have you changed your mind on?

The Elizabethan Religious ‘Settlement’.

Which genre of history do you like least?

Anything with more tables than words.

Is there a key historical text you have not read?

One of myriad omissions is The Alexiad by Anna Komnene.

What’s your favourite archive?

The Tresham Papers, which were bricked in to a wall after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and pulled out by builders two centuries later.

What’s the best museum?

The V&A and the Frick – incomparable.

Tudors or Stuarts?

Early Modern. 

Normans or Anglo-Saxons?

Anglo-Saxons.

Rome or Athens?

Rome.

Cromwell or Charles I?

Cromwell. 

Braudel or Gibbon?

Braudel.

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