August 6th, 2007


You are what you read

This morning on Radio4 Professor Peter Hennessey was the subject of The house I grew up in, which in his case was a council house in Finchley. What interested me was that he said his interest in history was due to R J Unstead and Rosemary Sutcliff. Me too, Prof! I was given a copy of the four volume Unstead when I was eight. Every picture in the book is printed on my memory. The book shown on the right is a late reprint: my childhood copy was destroyed by our cats. We didn't have these books at school: too modern and expensive for a post-war classroom which still used Piers Plowman Histories. But when I started teaching in the seventies, there was dear old Unstead to help me out with the younger forms.

I read all Rosemary Sutcliff's books from the local library. This one, Simon, I was given as a present and it is still my favourite. It is the story of two childhood friends who find themselves on opposite sides in the English Civil War and I'm sure my later fixation with the seventeenth century can be traced straight back to it.

Has anyone else had their career marked out by childhood reading?