On the Spot: Chris Wickham

Which person in history would I most like to have met? Karl Marx. You’d have to know the right questions to ask, though.

Karl Marx (1818–1883), 1875.
Karl Marx, c.1875.

Why are you a medieval historian?

As a student, I liked it because it seemed obscure. I was wrong there! But by then I was fascinated.

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

Everything is long-term. Temporary failures could well work out, 200 years later.

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you? 

Pierre Toubert’s Les structures du Latium médiéval, which gave me an entire methodology when I was 25.

What book in your field should everyone read?

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s Montaillou. We always need to develop understandings of history from below like that.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

The day of the Labour victory in 1945. All that rubbish pushed firmly into the past.

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