On the Spot: Penelope J. Corfield

‘In postwar Britain I was prejudiced against Germany. Then I studied German history, met German people and changed my mind.’

Ruins of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, 1945. National Archives. Public Domain.

Why are you a historian of the 18th century?

I began to study the ‘long’ 18th century for the challenge of researching a period that was comparatively understudied.

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

Not to rush to judgement.

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

The Living Past: The Great Civilisations of Mankind by Ivar Lissner.   

What book in your field should everyone read?

E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

Impossible to answer. I like to travel mentally to all eras.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Two contrasting influences: the creative intellect of E.P. Thompson, and the critical intellect of F.J. Fisher.

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

Charles James Fox, a politician who spent much of his career in opposition but who argued for reform at home and peace abroad.

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