very deep influence on my life and work, which again it is difficult
for me to analyse because it has been with me for a very long time and
has, so to speak, become fully internalized, is my love for and interest
in my own country, England. The contributing factors are easy enough
to enumerate, but more difficult to evaluate.
start with the kinship system, that tension between a mild yearning
for a wider set of emotional ties (which I romantically link to my Celtic
side) and my actual, very atomized and nucleated Protestant and English
family life - in England.
there is the influence of my mother - a wanderer, questioner, seeker
and meditator. A person whose own quest has obviously affected mine
in many ways and with whom, over the years, I have shared many ideas.
there is my very English education. Through the various pre-prep schools,
the Dragon, Sedbergh, Oxford and then Cambridge, I have been exposed
to that public-school - varsity sequence which very powerfully moulds
character. It moulds thoughts, emotions, styles of living, logical processes
and everything. Above all it glues one deeply to one's country. In some
ways, as a Cambridge don and product of the system, I am quintessentially
English - with the right accent, connections and imbued with very many
characteristics - reticence, tolerance, balance, toughness, irony, inhibitions,
loneliness, individualism, heartiness etc.
almost Jesuitical, up-bringing has combined with a deep love and interest
in things English. From my time in Dorset, through a deep love for the
Lake District and Wordsworth and the Yorkshire hills, through Oxbridge
and its charms, now to our exquisite house and garden in Lode, I have
soaked in a great deal of English culture - humour, aesthetics, political
organization etc. I have added to this implicit and informal indoctrination
quite explicitly by teaching, studying and writing a great deal about
the English - and hence myself.
be seen easily enough in my library - where a very large section consists
of literary texts about England. Not just formal English social/legal/political
history which, of course, is one of my formal academic areas of expertise,
but in the even larger number of 'sources' - autobiographies, dairies,
letters, travellers accounts, 'classics' from Bartholameus Anglicus
through Defoe and others, down to modern poetry and novels. The 'Englishness
of the English' has been one of my major themes both in writing
- from witchcraft and Josselin to the Wang Gouwei lectures given in
Tsinghua University, China, 'The
Invention of the Modern World'.
of my life, I am often consciously explaining, whether on Faculty Boards,
in pubs, watching cricket, or wherever, what it is to be 'English'.
In research, my two most intensive periods of research have been into
the nitty-gritty of English villages, Kirkby Lonsdale and Earls
Colne. This was yet another way to try to get inside the English
system and to see how it works.
of one's personal relationships and personal space, and in particular
the attempt to create a very 'English, Marvell-Milton earthly paradise
in our house and garden at Lode, is another example of the attempt to
live one's Englishness. Too much of this would be a bad thing. What
anthropology allows one to do is to be a participant-observer in one's
own culture - both living and observing bits and pieces. Both help the
other, I hope.