Why I Do History
I've always considered myself a historian. Despite some pretty bad teachers, my love of history grew during my school years because I loved to read history. At the University of East Anglia, I specialized in European history from the Reformation to the French Revolution. I was inspired by two outstanding teachers-- David Sabean, now Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA, who shared his passion for German history (all those warring principalities, peasant revolts and messianic reformers) and Oliver Logan, who spent summers in the archives in Venice researching the Counter-Reformation and Venetian culture and society and drinking Chianti. Both instilled in me a love of research. Oliver was disappointed when I decided to go into journalism rather than to graduate school.
As a working journalist, first in newspapers then television, I took whatever opportunities came my way to work on long-form features or documentaries. I researched and produced two historical documentaries for Yorkshire Television,: Raymond Mays: Last of the Titans (1976) on the career of the English auto racing car driver who dominated the 1930s hill-climb circuit, and The Day They Shelled Scarborough, on the World War I German naval raid on the northeast coast of Britain, with archival photos and film footage and interviews with eyewitnesses. More photos and eyewitness accounts went into my first short book, Remember Scarborough 1914! Since moving to the U.S. for graduate school in 1978, my research has been primarily in the following areas:
- World War One News Film
- The First Gulf War
- Canals and Railroads in 19th Century Ohio
- Oral History
- Post-Soviet Media in Central Asia