On the Spot: Gordon Campbell

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

Magasin centrale of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Bibliotheque nationale de France/Wiki Commons.

Why are you a historian of culture?

It allows me to range freely through the history of art, literature, gardens, religion and, most recently, the Norse.

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

That it is a means to understand the present. 

What book in your field should everyone read?

In Pursuit of Civility by Keith Thomas.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

I would prefer to go forward several centuries.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

W.G. Hoskins. His Making of the English Landscape taught me how to read what I can see.

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

I co-wrote a biography of John Milton and would like to ask him some awkward questions.

How many languages do you have?

I muddle through many but excel in none.

What is the most common misconception about your field? 

That searching archives produces rapid results.

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