On being a one trick historian

The Trickster Prince

2014-12-16 13.13.37

It’s happening again.

I read the diary written by Gwen Wells in which she records her courtship and marriage, the minutiae of life at work and play, the tumultuous final months of the Great War, and her experience of becoming seriously ill with influenza. A colleague tells me that Jack Neave – professional bohemian, Soho ‘character,’ and proprietor of the notorious Caravan Club when police raided it in 1934 –appears in a file in the archives of the National Council for Civil Liberties. I realize that the burglar Mark Benney transformed himself from a confessing ex-crook into a published sociologist who landed himself a teaching job at the University of Chicago in the 1950s. Confronted by each of these individuals, I find myself struggling with the inexorable urge to write a book about them.

Ordinarily none of this would have bothered me, but I have read Joanne Bailey’s wonderful blog about…

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