This website is devoted to essays and talks developed and delivered over the past twenty years, while I have been working in –and outside of -- universities around the world. These are not in mode the heavily footnoted material beloved of the research authorities, casting a tiny bit of alleged light on a notionally perceived partial problem. They are wide-ranging think-pieces deploying the kinds of topic and approach that promulgate a general education and a curiosity about the world, and especially relating to the structures of the past that in intriguing and often secret ways feed into the patterns of the present, and so condition the attitudes that underlie our present thinking and actions.
If there is to be a general term for the themes found here it might well be cultural history, though there is always a political element embodied – here culture is read in the tradition of Raymond Williams as the whole body of social thought and response, rather than some private entertainment that can shield people from reality.
Most of these pieces have not been published, or if they have, it was in some out-of-the-way location, and they would not be readily available without the magic carpet of the web. While some have specific concerns with elements of the past, they have been adapted and reworked to take note of the present, and especially to provide up-to-date reading references.
At a time when the universities have been, as some of us predicted in the 1980s, thoroughly immersed in the economy, and a degree is generally expected to link seamlessly to some lucrative job, from pharmacy to hairdressing, there is a growing role for the circulation of ideas and analysis, of the kind that used to be a basic of early-year university education. Free and interrogative education will not disappear: if it is now largely exiled from campus, or at best funding-controlled in some research-centre hothouse, it will, history tells us, escape into new technical and social modes. That’s where universities came from. Now we are moving on.