Forty Years On

Anniversaries are, by definition, a time not only for celebration but also for self-examination, for dimly gazing into the future as well as for happily recalling the past.

This year, 1985, is a bumper time for such retrospection, as the end of the Second World War is commemorated by a wide variety of people in a wide variety of ways. One of its least discussed consequences, which was unexpected, unintended, and yet – in hindsight – clearly undeniable, is that the end of the Second World War saw the beginning of professional history in this country as we now know it.

Historians – to state the obvious – are in being and in business to study and understand people and things in time. And so it may well be that this fortieth anniversary of British professional history is an appropriate opportunity for us to look at ourselves in time. Forty years on, how does this first great age of British professional history look in retrospect? What does its future look like in prospect? And how well placed are we to come to terms with it?

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