‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfil it’ George Santayana
History Interpreter – Speaker – Writer – Researcher
The Jesuits say ‘give me a child until they are seven and I will show you the man’, or woman of course. When I was seven I spent my time making up impossibly large families in ‘my famerley book’ (spelling was not a strong point). I also wrote long stories or played complicated, extended games of schools. Although I enjoyed ‘dressing up’, I hadn’t yet started donning period costume but most other aspects of my current life were there in embryonic form.
Although I have, I hope, a reputation as an academic historian, I believe good history is for everyone. As The History Interpreter, I aim to bring history alive in a variety of ways. I am passionate about encouraging young people to become interested in the past, especially through living history or family history. Many of my ideas are shared in my booklet Harnessing the Facebook Generation: ideas for involving young people in family history and heritage. I spend part of my time as my alter ego, Mistress Agnes, living in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, managing the Swords and Spindles team of historical interpreters. My social history book Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors, emerged out of this experience. I am particularly interested in the role of women in the past and recently helped eighty ladies recall their memories of the pivotal period 1946-1969. These have been merged together in Remember Then: women’s memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own.
I enjoy dissecting small, rural communities and trying to understand how they functioned in the past. In this respect, I maintain my own one place studies for the North Devon villages of Buckland Brewer, Bucks Mills and Bulkworthy. No, I am not working my way through the alphabet! I am a founder member and former chair of the Society for One-Place Studies and I have written a guide to that peculiar blend of local and family history that is one place studies Putting Your Ancestors in their Place. I also research my own family history, with an emphasis on putting the lives of my ancestors into a wider context. I am responsible for the latest edition of the classic family history handbook Family Historian’s Enquire Within. I teach family and local history classes and am a tutor for Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd. who offer a range of online genealogical courses. I am also a columnist for The In-Depth Genealogist Magazine.
Recently, I have been persuaded to return to fiction writing, something that I have not done since my angst-ridden teenage years. So I am busy recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century. The story is based on a real scandal that lay hidden for nearly a century and includes murder, shipwrecks, disease and some lighter moments! Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character. If all goes well, publication date will be in November 2018.
I work closely with historical organisations in my home county of Devon and I am leader of the North Devon group of Devon Family History Society. The Isle of Wight Family History Society have done me the honour of appointing me one of their vice-presidents. As historian for The Braund Family History Society I have immersed myself in the origins, genealogy and biography of this west country family and have written several books about them. I am also a long-standing member of the Guild of One-Name Studies and their regional representative for Cornwall.
You can read about my chaotic historical life on the blog at Latest News from the History Interpreter do click ‘follow’ if you want to keep up to date.
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‘The past is history not destiny’ US President Clinton speaking of the situation in Ireland – December 2000