The influence of various people and institutions.

Since 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 effort.

It is 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 meetings.

This realization 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.

The account is divided into phases.

1941-63. 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 Morgan.

1963-74. 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 von Fürer-Haimendorf.

1972-2002. History and computing: new tools for the job. An account of work on the borders.

1975-2002. Teaching, administration, research: Trying to find and communicate answers to my life's questions. There are separate treatments of the social historian Peter Laslett, the anthropologist Jack Goody, the philosopher anthropologist Ernest Gellner, and my co-worker and friend Gerry Martin.