History Weekend 2014 preview: 5 minutes with… Chris Skidmore MP

Historical researcher-turned-MP, Chris Skidmore, is to reassess England's most divisive king, Richard III, at this year’s History Weekend in Malmesbury.

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Drawing upon original manuscript evidence, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, Bristol, will investigate the ambitions and experiences of Richard, and seek to understand how his downfall at Bosworth came about.

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Skidmore is the author of three books, Edward VI: The Lost King of England; Death and the Virgin; and Bosworth: the Birth of the Tudors.

Here, he reveals how he finds time outside of politics to pursue his love of history, and gives a taster of his Malmesbury lecture, ‘Richard III: Inside the Mind of England’s Most Controversial King’.

Q: When did you first realise you had a passion for history?

A: I loved history from an early age – 11 or 12 – and always had a head for facts. I was a member of the archeological society at school, and as part of that visited places like Maiden Castle in Dorset, which really opened my eyes to how rich our history is.

I soon knew I wanted to study history at university.

Q: How do you find time for history, considering you’re an MP?

A: History was previously my job, and now it’s a hobby. History helps me to wind down in the evening – so while other people watch a soap or play football, I read documents and work on my books.

I spend about two hours on it each evening, often working until 2am or 3am, and dedicate time at weekends.

Q: What is it about the Tudor period that excites you?

A: The further back in time you go, the more abstract history becomes, as you have less evidence about that period.

But I love documents, and the Tudor period saw an explosion of letters and portraits, so for me it’s when the past starts to come alive.

Q: Are you reading any exciting history books at the moment?

A: I have to dedicate any free time I have to researching for my own book, but I am reviewing Chris Bryant’s parliamentary biography [Parliament: The Biography (Volume I)].

It’s very impressive in terms of scope – he has managed to cover 1,000 years of the early parliament in one volume.

Q: What can we expect from your talk, ‘Richard III: Inside the Mind of England’s Most Controversial King’?

A: Richard III has, for far too long, been seen as a black and white character – you’re either for him, or against him. For example, the debate about whether he killed the princes in the Tower has clouded our understanding of him as an individual.

I want to try to present a more complex picture of him than current historiography allows.

To find out more about the History Weekend, and to buy tickets, visit www.historyweekend.com

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To buy tickets to Chris Skidmore’s talk, click here.