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.