History Weekend 2014 preview: 5 minutes with… Dominic Sandbrook

From our entry into Europe to our love affair with mass consumerism, post-war Britain has undergone massive cultural and social change. In his talk at this year’s History Weekend, historian and author Dominic Sandbrook will reveal the 10 moments he believes have defined the British experience since 1945

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Sandbrook has presented the BBC Two series The 70s, Das Auto and Strange Days, and has written four books on postwar Britain – most recently Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain 1974–1979.

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Here, Sandbrook describes his love of post-war history, and gives a flavour of his sold-out Malmesbury talk…

Q: How and when did you first realise you had a passion for history?

A: I’m a bit of a sad case, I’m afraid, because I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been passionately interested in history. As a very little boy I was obsessed by King Arthur, Robin Hood and anything involving knights, and I loved all the Ladybird history books.

At school I had some brilliant history teachers, and ever since I don’t think there’s been a day when I haven’t read or thought about history – with the possible exception of my honeymoon.

Q: What’s the best thing about being a historian?

A: History broadens the mind. It gives you a sense of perspective and humility; it introduces you to people you might never meet in your daily life; it confronts you with the very best and worst of human nature.

But the most important thing about it is that it’s fun. Most people are pretty funny in one way or another, so history ought to be funny, too.

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

A: What, apart from my own? Only joking. At the moment I’m looking forward to reading Modernity Britain, the latest volume of David Kynaston’s history of post-war Britain. He covers the same ground as me, so it’s fun to see where we differ and where we agree. Slightly disappointingly, we’ve agreed on almost everything so far.

Q: Why do you love postwar British history?

A: The appeal of very recent history is that it’s the day before yesterday – at once very familiar, and just out of reach. We live in the world that the postwar generation made, so in a way it’s all around us.

At the same time, these are the years my parents lived through, and into which I was born. So that makes them, to me at least, automatically fascinating.

Q: What can we expect from your talk at Malmesbury?

A: Wit, charm, devilish good looks – and that’s just the audience! Meanwhile I will be talking about the 10 events that, I believe, have defined British history since 1945.

I expect I might mention the end of empire, the advent of television and a certain middle-aged lady from Grantham. I expect some feisty questions.

To find out more about Dominic Sandbrook’s talk, click here.

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To read more about the History Weekend line-up, click here.