influence of various people and institutions.
at least the Renaissance, the intellectual or artist as lone genius
has been a powerful myth in the west. The power of this myth has increased
with the development of concepts of intellectual property rights and
the commodification of knowledge. It is difficult to escape from it
and not least when we look back on our own intellectual adventures.
Writing in our studies, we tend to think that our ideas are largely
our own, our achievements almost entirely the result of a heroic individual
therefore salutary to consider the way in which our lives and thoughts
have been deeply influenced by others. We are all rivers into which
many tributaries have flowed. Our achievements are largely the result
of fortune, of a network of contacts, of an almost invisible context
of institutional supports, from libraries through to conversations and
has come to dominate the recent work of historians of science and I
would like to pursue it further in trying to understand my own background.
Here I shall only make a short start by looking at a few of the people
and who have influenced me most.
is divided into phases.
Childhood, adolescence and undergraduate life: learning what the questions
are. There are also longer separate treatments of my mother Iris
Macfarlane, and my school history teacher, Andrew
Post-graduate and research fellow: learning the tools of the trade.
There are separate treatments of my wife and co-worker Sarah
Harrison, my history D.Phil. supervisor Keith
Thomas, and my anthropology Ph.D. supervisor Christoph
History and computing: new tools for the job. An account of work on
Teaching, administration, research: Trying to find and communicate answers
to my life's questions. There are separate treatments of the social
Laslett, the anthropologist Jack
Goody, the philosopher anthropologist Ernest
Gellner, and my co-worker and friend Gerry