Project Officer: This interview is being conducted for
the project 'Making history: the discipline in perspective', and the Project
Officer Danny Millum will be speaking to Professor Christopher Brooke about
his experience of, and views on, changes in the discipline and the academic
profession of history.
Professor Brooke, may we start with your giving us some brief biographical information?
Christopher Brooke: Yes, indeed, thank you. I am unusual in being a hereditary historian. My father, Zachary Brooke, was a medieval historian, and I had the opportunity of working really as apprentice to him from when I was 14 or 15. I gave up collecting engine numbers and took to collecting medieval archdeacons instead.
Some of the projects that he was involved in carried on to more recent times. One of them was published after his death as Heads of Religious Houses – he died when I was a second-year undergraduate at Cambridge in 1946. The work was carried on with David Knowles and Vera London and we published the first volume in 1972. The final volume of the series, taking it to 1540 (Heads of Religious Houses in England and Wales), has been compiled by Professor David Smith of York and will be published on March the 19th . It's the end of an era.
My father supported with great enthusiasm my interest as a teenager, treating me as a colleague, which on the one hand was inspiring and on the other hand could be alarming. He had a very expressive face and made no attempt to disguise his amazement at the errors which I made, as if I had been one of his contemporaries.
The other major influences on my life have been Dom David Knowles. When I came to Cambridge I took a special subject on the study of and sources for St Francis with David Knowles – and that's where I first met my wife of over fifty years now, Rosalind Clarke as she was then. They have been the two greatest influences on me.
But I've been very fortunate in my teachers. I had a brilliant senior history master at Winchester in Harold Walker, as well as my teachers here at Cambridge – Philip Pearson, Michael Oakeshott, the lectures of Sir Michael Postan (with whom I subsequently wrote two books). I imagined myself possibly becoming an economic historian, which shows how inspired I was by him, but of course it's not at all my line.
And also I mingled with art historians and with archaeologists. And I think the other influence I should mention at this stage is an amateur interest, going right back to undergraduate days, in New Testament criticism, which has been extremely helpful to me in the study of historical method.
PO: You are unusual in having ranged and published very widely, but if we talk about medieval history for a moment who would you see as the most important figures in the development of the field, both over your career and prior to that, since the professionalisation of the discipline?
CB: It depends very much where one puts the professionalisation of the discipline. In many respects it was professionalised by German scholars, as was so much of the academic world in the 19th century, and my father's generation were those who brought it in here – my father himself, Sir Maurice Powicke, Sir Frank Stenton. Although Stenton was less involved in ecclesiastical history, he was very interested in the study of the way in which medieval sources can be lifted off the page and the data revealed. Sir Frank Stenton was, I think, the one of his own generation whom my father admired most.
Vivien Galbraith, Regius Professor at Oxford who succeeded Powicke, was the one I knew best personally. We worked a great deal together in the editing of medieval texts. A greater part of my life has been spent in the editing of texts, Nelson's and then Oxford Medieval Texts on the one hand, of which I was general editor from 1959 to 1987, and the British Academy's project, the English Episcopal Acta, which I've been involved in throughout its lifetime. We've now just recently published volume 33 – that's quite substantial. And I've had a rather more touchline involvement in the Institute of Historical Research's Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, which again I've been involved with in some measure since its inception.
But with regard to the kind of medieval ecclesiastical history that I have especially studied, it's very difficult to single out particular names because what has happened here has been the story throughout the historical profession. It's got larger and larger and larger, and more people and more countries and so forth have been drawn in, and in the case of medieval religious history more fields, like liturgy and religious art and so forth, and that produces quite different kinds of personality.
In this country the most prestigious name I suppose of the 1950s and 60s was Dom David Knowles, whom I mentioned before, who ended as Regius Professor of Modern History in Cambridge. And among the more international community, who were in a sense, like me, his disciples, Giles Constable of Harvard and Princeton, who's really the doyen of American medievalists, has been a great figure in more recent times.
One of the fields of medieval ecclesiastical history that has flourished most exceedingly in my lifetime has been the study of canon law, medieval canon law. The doyen of the field there was Stephan Kuttner, who was latterly the Director of the Institute of Medieval Canon Law at Berkeley after a career that started in Germany and passed through Italy, but most of his adult career was in America. And I think that the thing that particularly made him stand head and shoulders above everyone else was not only the profundity of his scholarship but the comprehensive nature of it. He revealed a whole world of new sources in the study of canon law, and that's where most of his work was done in fact. He was very much a scholar's scholar, but from time to time he let the knowledge that he acquired off the page to get a more general view.
Whereas David Knowles was rather the other end of the spectrum – he was essentially a literary historian, somebody with wonderful command of English prose, and showed how historical writing based on sound and careful scholarship can produce historical literature. He was a great admirer of Macaulay, strangely for a monk.
PO: Perhaps it was the style?
CB: It was the style I think that appealed to him particularly. He was a great admirer of narrative history, and his own best work is in a sense narrative history – although it's not what one normally thinks of as that because it was narrative history of monasticism.
PO: So different narratives?
CB: Different narratives, yes, yes. I think that's probably everything that's worth saying at this stage, because if I go on naming names I shall think after you've departed of all my good friends that I've left out!
PO: That's always the problem isn't it, when thinking of names – of people who are omitted? Do you think that there are particular institutions which have played a big part in the evolution of this aspect of the discipline?
CB: Well, I would say two things there. First of all, the Institute of Historical Research has played a central role in the development of historical research over the last 80 years or so, especially since the Second World War.
PO: In what way?
CB: It's been a home to which people have come from all over the world. It's been an international centre, a recognised international centre, perforce a centre for all the research students in the University of London because of the absurd (I must be careful what I say!) constitution of the University. And for historical research it's always been important – I mean, I was a professor at the University of London for ten years.
PO: Right, was that at Westfield?
CB: At Westfield. But the Institute was as much my home in a way as Westfield was, because that's where I saw my research students and that's where I saw the centre of research work in the University. So if one's got to single out particular places, undoubtedly there has been continuous important work being done in Oxford and Cambridge too, and as a Cambridge man I must mention that in passing.
But the chief thing I would say is that the enormous expansion of the university scene has led to everything becoming much more variegated. If one went back to the 1920s one would have to mention Manchester particularly, the Manchester of T.F. Tout, as a centre from which emanated influences in research, but influences in teaching too. All sorts of things we take for granted in university syllabuses started in Manchester way back in Tout's time.
But that's been less so in more recent years really because other places have rolled their sleeves up and become equally important – Sheffield, UEA, York. For the fields in which I work York has been very important, because at an early stage it absorbed and developed the Borthwick Institute, which is basically an archive. It started as the archives of the Archbishop of York, in fact, but has become a much bigger thing in that world, and the centre of a number of research projects too. There's much more at York than the Borthwick, but that is a major element. And one could go on from university to university. It would be invidious to go much further, but most universities, most of the major universities which have serious historical research, have played an important role in the development of the subject.
I saw that from another point of view in the 1960s and 70s when I had nine years as a member of the Arts Sub-Committee of the University Grants Committee (UGC). I toured the land and saw how things were developing in the first major expansion of the post-Robbins era – Robbins came in the middle of it, really, but was seen as the symbol of the great expansion of the 1960s.
And I'm still a man of the 60s in that respect, in that I think that the ideas we had for enabling universities to expand and to develop research institutes, as well as developing teaching, were fundamentally good. They were, of course, frustrated by government meanness in every decade since, including the present.
PO: We'll come back to the impact of the state and government on history, but I wanted to bring up something that we were talking about just before the interview began, that is, the question of theoretical approaches to history.
CB: Yes. I was showing myself to be a real old-fashioned empirical historian by saying I believed in facts! It was not a kind of defiance of the modern world, which it would be in some people's mouths. I quite sympathise with the position of the post-modernists who certainly don't see facts as the major substance of history.
Because so much of the kind of institutional and personal history that I have been studying – documentary history and so forth – does have a factual element and a factual base, ultimately to deny that William the Conqueror was crowned on Christmas Day 1066 is absurd. It's like denying that the earth is round, as absurd as that. Of course, on the one hand it takes a lot of assumptions before you get there, for example as to when you start the beginning of the year – most contemporary chroniclers, not all, began the year on Christmas Day, and so it turns out to be 1067 instead. But once one has gone through all the motions of understanding the way contemporaries thought about these things, people simply can't reasonably disagree about it.
The other point is that many historians say that it may be so but it's not in itself very interesting. But it's an essential element of the reconstruction process. To me history is the scientific study of historical evidence, of evidence that's about the past. It's the beginning of a larger construction about what happened in 1066, and all about it so to speak, which it seems to me is of great interest, and can be made of great interest without taking flight entirely away from the factual basis.
And I certainly wouldn't want to embark on a discussion of the limits of fact, and the limits of evidence to which I have been accustomed. I wrote a book called The Medieval Idea of Marriage – that wasn't my title, and it wasn't what it's really about – which examined approaches to marriage, and the way in which evidence can be used to study marriage. I included within that a certain amount of the history of art and architecture and a great deal of literary evidence too. And how much of my reconstruction of literary evidence has a factual basis is a nice question.
PO: You were also saying that modern historians, some of whom might be keener to espouse post-modern-type theories, are surprised that people whom they considered to be older or more traditional historians, like yourself in fact, have gone through these thought processes already.
CB: Ah yes. Of course, post-modernism is particularly appropriate and influential in the world of the history of ideas, which is not my world but one which I greatly respect. One of the things that has been highly fashionable in recent years has been the attempt to provide interdisciplinary links between empirical history and anthropology in particular – anthropology very widely interpreted, because it can mean all sorts of different things.
I was discussing this a year or two ago with Miri Rubin, and she was very surprised when I said that I had studied anthropology extensively, or rather briefly intensively, in my twenties because I thought it was going to throw a flood of light – and it did throw some light – on the early medieval history on which I was lecturing.
PO: So would that be in the 1950s?
CB: The early 1950s. I was greatly fascinated by it and I wasn't the only one who was doing this by any manner of means. The only problem was that I found when I came to look back on it 20 years later that the anthropology had changed. It's a real problem for the historian – our empirical approach to evidence, I suppose, lasts better than the more theoretical approaches of other disciplines. But we try and fit in with them.
That's not an excuse for being ostrich-like and ignoring the importance and stimulus and interest of these other things, but it is a reasonable note of caution in blindly following fashions. I'm not personally excited by some of the modern fashions. I know that's my lack – I suppose it's not they but I who suffer.
PO: What sort of things did you have in mind?
CB: The study of the body, the study of food, the study of cant words like power that enter into the titles of a whole string of articles on perfectly reasonable and interesting subjects but that seem to me to be skewing them to a particular interest.
PO: A certain fashionable terminology is employed...
CB: A certain fashionable terminology that, of course, shifts from year to year or decade to decade.
PO: And can therefore date things for that very reason?
CB: Yes, indeed. But can also be extremely stimulating and interesting. Sometimes the titles that I thought most perverse produced some of the most interesting ideas.
PO: I suppose it's good to be confounded in that way isn't it?
CB: Absolutely. It's particularly necessary to have that experience when you get to my age. There is a great danger of thinking you're too old to change your mind, which I would think is fatal. It's a sign that you should be put on a shelf entirely if you take that point of view, which I hope I don't. There's a tendency when somebody says that something you thought you'd settled 60 years ago is quite wrong to accept too quickly that they're right. On the other hand, to say 'Oh no, no, no, I've settled that matter long ago' is obscurantism, which is to be avoided above all. It's difficult to get the right balance when you get over 80.
PO: How do you think that the pressures on academics have changed during your career?
CB: Well they're surrounded by a culture of over-regulation, and there's a fearful amount of what seems to be mostly a waste of time. I mean some of it isn't a waste of time; some of it is designed to give greater fairness to students, and obviously one must respect that, but a great deal of it is just bumf. I thought that we had quite enough paperwork to deal with when I was in post, but when they were considering whether to put me in under category C for the RAE – which they didn't in the event do – a huge pile of paper emerged, giving the instructions and so on. Basically it is all done under government orders, but the universities take it up with a will. I looked through all the paperwork and I saw that I wasn't eligible, so I queried this with the academic secretary of the faculty board, and she said 'Well I only gave you a bit of it...'
PO: A taster.
CB: A taster – '...and I'm afraid the part that really related to you wasn't there'. But I think that's a feature of life altogether -the insurance policy I took out 50 years ago when I got married was one side of a sheet of paper, and now it's a book written in print so small I can't read it. It is a feature of our culture, but it does put a tremendous amount of mostly perfectly unnecessary extra work on academics. Academic life as it's conscientiously pursued has always been a very strenuous one. I reckoned to do a 90-hour week during term when I was in post.
PO: Ninety hours?
CB: A 90-hour week during term, a 60-hour week in the vac. I daresay I didn't always do it, and it depends of course how one defines work, but there wasn't any spare capacity. I did sometimes have to add jobs outside, which added to the burden, but I wasn't exceptionally overloaded. It lies more with the person than with the job – it had been less when our children were small; the 90-hour week was when they were away at university or somehow out of my reach. Because I have an academic wife there was a certain amount of domestic collaboration involved in that time too
Any future government that takes seriously the predicament of higher education in universities would be to unpick this problem of the excess of paperwork and administration. It afflicts every stratum. When I was first a fellow of the British Academy, in 1970, it was run by a secretary and an assistant secretary and that was about it, and now it has an army. In many ways the expansion has been very beneficial. They're doing a lot of good work in many ways, but they're also producing fantastic quantities of paper, which we have to read.
And that's the most obvious additional pressure. Some people would spend much more time talking about the burdens of the RAE and the way in which research is forced down people's throats – whereas it was the cream of one's task before it has now become a kind of commercial necessity and has to be geared to the demands of an external authority that doesn't understand what historical research is. I find that very galling, but in a way it's part of the same culture of over-regulation.
PO: I suppose this brings us onto something else that I wanted to ask you about, which was the relationship between research and teaching. Looking back to when you were first starting your career, and casting your mind over your career, how you think that that relationship has changed?
CB: Well it's changed quite profoundly in one way. It was possible to be a university teacher and do no research 50 years ago – that's virtually impossible now. It's not wholly impossible, but it is virtually impossible. You can't get promotion, you can't get posts now unless you show some sign of being ready to do research. And insofar as research is an inherent part of the academic world, something that I firmly believe, it seems to be a good thing that people should do it.
But there was a substantial element – much more visible in Cambridge than in other universities, but I saw a bit of it everywhere – who would flourish in research in their early lives, and the research had somehow or another become stale but the teaching hadn't. And some of the best teachers I've encountered were people who weren't actually doing any research, though I was brought up as a matter of dogma that an academic should be doing both and should be revealing to his pupils the fruits of his research in some form or another, showing them the cutting edge of the academic life in the process.
Research has been there for 130 years so far as Oxford and Cambridge are concerned, but it was so with all universities I think. Initially, it was not quite as important in some of the early provincial universities but it became so very rapidly and some of them laid even more stress than Oxford and Cambridge did at that time on research. The Oxford and Cambridge Act of 1877 laid down that education, religion, learning and research were the purposes of the University of Oxford and Cambridge.
PO: It was there in the original...
CB: Research was there. So far as I know the word itself hadn't very clearly entered into usage, but it was at that time controversial, as religion was. But there they both firmly were in the Act of Parliament. Research was controversial because to some people it meant the pernicious influence of the German professor. Some people saw that as an ideal, as something that ought to dominate the English academic scene. Whatever the views that were held, there's no doubt that institutionally the German pattern had some influence on the provincial universities – it had no influence at all on Oxford and Cambridge institutionally – and in terms of methods of research, techniques of research, prestige of research the German influence was very powerful.
It's not unique, there were plenty of people doing research in other European countries, but Germany was the heart and core of it.
PO: Could you talk a little bit more about institutional changes since the 1950s or 60s? I know that in your History of Cambridge you were talking about your role in the University Grants Committee and the effect of changes in the way that the UGC operates on how government has interfered with universities.
CB: Yes. The UGC was traditionally a very benevolent body. It didn't interfere much in universities until the enormous increase in financial provision in the 1960s, which was positive in itself, although never as much as it ought to have been. Then the Public Accounts Committee, or whatever it is, said that when you get beyond a certain percentage then the accounts of the universities must be open to us. And you must be more accountable than you have been. And at first that seemed to be a purely technical thing – they were just having a look to see that we weren't spending our money on drink. But in practice it gave government the idea that they could intervene, and direct government intervention in universities had been anathema before the 1960s.
I think it was over the issue of fees to be demanded from overseas students that the government directly intervened in the universities without going through the UGC or any of its successors, and since then they've done it all the time, more and more and more and more. The atmosphere, the assumption, the culture of politicians, even those who've been to Oxford and Cambridge, is authoritarian – government can intervene, and the universities should be doing what the government representing the people tells them to do. So there's direct conflict for Oxford and Cambridge – I use these because they're the universities I work in, I'm not suggesting that they're unique in these ways or these problems -between the idea that the government represents democracy and the idea of a democratically run university, the democracy of the teachers.
But what happened in the 1960s was, among other things, a great liberalisation of university organisation. The traditional provincial university had a university council that largely consisted of lay members – in the early days, leading local businessmen and politicians, with a few academics, made the financial and crucial decisions. Then underneath that there was a Senate, the supreme academic body, which consisted entirely of professors. And both bodies were liberalised in the 1960s. I saw this happening in Liverpool when I was there. We had a new charter which greatly liberalised the constitution, as much in atmosphere as in technical detail. The academic representation at Council greatly increased, the non-professorial element in Senate crept up a bit, not to an enormous extent, but it did. It was difficult to increase beyond a certain point because it was already well over 100 people.
But generally, these things happened. It became the practice for heads of department more commonly to be consultative. When I became a head of department in Liverpool in the late 1950s I simply instituted my Cambridge background; I consulted my colleagues and we made democratic decisions, or more or less democratic decisions, within the department. But that wasn't the normal form. The head of department simply listened to people talking and then made up his own mind.
Now the democratisation went a considerable distance in the 1960s, but as financial stringency returned and as government intervention became stronger that process has gone into reverse. Of course, it's many, many years since I was seriously involved in a provincial university or a modern university, or indeed even in the University of London, so this is hearsay, but my strong impression is that the more authoritarian image has largely returned, and that the power of the purse has given much more authority to top executives and so forth in many universities. That's the battle we're fighting against here at the moment.
And this is retrograde. The situation in Liverpool when I went in the 1950s was that the ordinary lecturers had no say in the government of the university at all. A small number of them were members of faculty boards and about one in a thousand was a member of the Senate. I'm the youngest of three sons, and the one immediately above me was a lecturer in Durham and then a Professor in UEA. When he first went to Durham as a lecturer, he explained to me that the only form of representation that lecturers had in the management of the department and the university was through the Association of University Teachers (AUT) as it then was, now the University and College Union.
So I became a loyal member of the AUT in those quite early days, even when I was still in Cambridge, which was in those days relatively unusual.
PO: For someone to be a member of the union?
CB: For someone to bother about the union in Cambridge in those days. Of course, the reason for that was because we all had direct access to the avenues of power – not as many as we might like, but we did have access – whereas in the provincial universities they had none. The situation was liberalised in the 1960s, but has gone into reverse, owing to financial stringency but also a bit to the student rebellions. That's a more complicated story, because the students didn't think academic democracy by the teachers had anything to do with democracy at all.
PO: So in a sense the students wanted to take this so-called liberalisation further, you would say?
CB: They wanted to take it over. Actually the tendency, in fact, was anti-liberal. It wasn't intended so, but it was ... That was my impression of how it worked in practice. But that's a quite different story, and a temporary one, because it only lasted for a few years, although it left some scars. It was the financial stringency, government intervention, that caused the revival of a more authoritarian type of regime in other universities, though not at Cambridge.
PO: And if we can move away from that now to a slightly different aspect of the topic. Do you have any views on the relationship between academic history and popular history and how you think that might have changed?
CB: I've always been keen on what I've called genuine popular history, very keen. It has always seemed to me, indeed it's true of all academic disciplines in so far as they can be made intelligible, that history is going to wither on the vine if it doesn't have a natural roots outside the academy. And history particularly can have very powerful roots outside. We noticed that in our little Lakeland valley. There's a local history society set up. Like everything, it's nothing to do with me. I try to lend a hand in giving encouragement but I've done very little, and it flourishes like anything and shows that there's an extraordinary range of things from prehistoric archaeology to number-crunching in parish registers that people are interested in.
This seems to be absolutely vital to the health of the profession. In early days I used to be a fairly active member of the Historical Association. I was chairman of the Liverpool branch for a time and that sort of thing, and went round talking to other branches and tried to help in that sort of way. As one gets older it becomes more difficult to do these things, but one can just cheer from the sidelines as it were.
But popular history in that sense, History Today and that sort of thing, seems to me to be very positive. I contributed in a way in that I've always thought that those who have any capacity to write in a way that makes history readable should use it, and I wrote textbooks (admittedly it was partly to make money) when the possibility arose. I squared it with my professional integrity because of its being something that was going to be a positive help in the subject, although most of my books were, I think, more used in teaching than in popularising the subject. Not entirely so, Saxon and Norman Kings used to sell at station bookstores occasionally.
PO: And do you see things as being any different?
CB: Yes, coming back to the point you wanted to ask. I don't think this has changed very fundamentally, except in so far as history popularised by academics has become much bigger business, particularly on television. When I was involved in the early days in these things I used to take part occasionally in broadcast discussions and talks. But that was a very small world, compared with what some of my colleagues nowadays do.
And some of what is done is very good. It's a medium that lends itself to corruption, but I think a lot of genuine history is put across. TV has opened up a market that I think in one way or another was always there, but it has been opened up much more widely. On the other hand spurious popular history is even more successful.
PO: What would you put in that category?
CB: Well I was thinking of The Da Vinci Code.
PO: Although I suppose that is a novel isn't it, although people have maybe taken it too seriously?
CB: Well it's a novel that succeeds, as I understand it, because it gives a plausible bogus view of history.
PO: Yes, you're right.
CB: Well not entirely, of course, but that's part of its success.
PO: That is similar to a phenomenon that I was thinking about that you see in people like Patrick O'Brian, the Master and Commander author. There's trend towards the novel that uses so many historical facts and devices, based on a lot of historical research, that in a sense it's almost an amalgamation of a novel and a piece of historical work. They're buttressing their fictional story with far more facts than would have been the norm in the past.
CB: Well I'm not sure. What about G. A. Henty, who was, I suppose, the most popular historical novelist of the 19th century. He was also a member of this college, one of the most famous historical writers this college has produced. The story seems to us trite nowadays – you know, some Englishman flourishes in the circumstance – but the historical situation, as it's produced, was the result of serious historical reading and writing, and I would have thought it's much the same phenomenon.
PO: So in fact not necessarily anything new.
CB: All that I know about Frederick the Great of Prussia comes from Henty!
PO: I just wanted to ask you about your views on developments in the teaching of history in schools, or even just teaching in general in schools, and what effect that's had on undergraduates and people coming through to universities?
CB: Well the teaching of history is really something I'm too remote from now to comment on. The influence of what happens in schools is most visible through the disappearance of languages, which has made very great difficulties for historical study all round, but so far as history is concerned I observe it nowadays mostly through what happens to my grandchildren, and they never seem to study anything except two world wars.
PO: Right, which is an oft-put criticism isn't it?
CB: I used to say, though I'm a medievalist, that every syllabus should include some contemporary history because students can see the link with their own world. But this doesn't seem to work that way at all – the Second World War to them is ancient history; it might as well be Tutankhamun. There are certain things that history should give from the word go and one of them is some sense of depth in time. And if it's the 20th century without anything else, then children don't get that. As I said, I'm not against 20th-century history but it seems to be a sort of monopoly. The type of history also seems to be rather narrow. This may be an untypical experience, but I don't think it is – I've heard others say the same.
Some of the history in schools that I've heard of and encountered, social history with a little local edge to it, I thought was inspired. But I've heard less of that recently.
PO: Finally, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the future of the discipline – I guess both in terms of what you think historians should be doing and what you think is likely to happen to the profession?
CB: Well I think historians need to be rather humble and modest or else they'll get too big for their boots, because the world in a sense is at our feet. One sees so many examples of that. If X and Y had had a course in Middle East history the invasion of Iraq wouldn't have taken place. That seems to me quite clear. And I do think history is incomparable as cultural instruction. The difficulty is that it mustn't be propounded by people sort of ex-cathedra, as if they were issuing papal encyclicals, if you see what I mean.
It is potentially one of the most powerful educational forces in the world, and the more scientific it is, the more effective and powerful it is. Scientific is of course a very ambiguous word – it means different things to different people. To some people it simply means dry as dust history, which is not of course what I'm suggesting. What I mean is that it's securely based on a very wide range of understanding of the nature of historical evidence.
There are no doubt strains and stresses, and one could wish to see it more acknowledged in its own right by government. The setting up of the Arts and Humanities Research Council by the present government, or more or less the present Labour government, did represent a step in the right direction, whereas attempts to replace the RAE by a more metric system of assessment are straight back into the dark ages. It's one step forward, one step back, as far as I can see in many respects. The scientific nature of history isn't sufficiently recognised – because it calls itself arts, it's thought of as an art. Which it is, it is, it isn't? When I was young we used to argue endlessly as to whether history was a science or an art and of course it's both; it must be both or it doesn't stand up at all. But it must be seen as a scientific discipline of equal importance in the world to the currently more prestigious natural sciences.
PO: Professor Brooke, thanks very much indeed.