Bookish Delights

Douglas Johnson, historian of France and HT academic board member, explains how a youthful attraction to libraries opened doors for him.

In 1934 my father took a job in Lancaster. We went to live there and I became a pupil at the grammar school. I was there until the end of 1942, when I went to do two terms at Oxford as a history student before joining the army.

I should admit immediately that I didn’t do many of the things that other contributors to this column have listed as being steps towards becoming a historian. In spite of the opportunities offered by ‘time-honoured Lancaster’, I did not visit old buildings. Nor did I want to dress up as a Roman warrior.

My enthusiasm for history always went hand-in-hand with my enthusiasm for libraries. When, after my first day in the school’s preparatory department, I was taken to the junior library and told that I could borrow a book, I was overwhelmed. I had never seen a room filled with books. I had no idea what I should do. Finally I took out a ‘What do you know?’ type of book, which asked questions mainly about history and geography and gave answers with illustrations. I read it avidly and returned the next day to borrow something else.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.