Interview with Professor Emerita Barbara Yorke, part 4(Final part)

Do you think a historical truth exists? –It’s all sort of multi layered, isn’t it, cause obviously something did happen, it’s hard to, though some people might try to, argue away something like the Second World War, and you can see a series of events that led up to it, but when you then begin to ask why did that happen, that is obviously more difficult. I think that there is something that really has happened, but trying to understand everything is more difficult. For with accidents or something and five witnesses come forward, then they all have slightly different stories depending on their idea of what happened and where they were standing at the time, or their preconceptions if they see a female driver, then men might say; it must be the women driving’s fault, she was hesitating, etc., etc., and thereby people will make those sort of assumptions and built them into how they have interpreted what’s going on, and so than you have to try and reconstruct what have happened, and that is sort of what historians are doing in a way. They are laying out the facts they can be sure of, and then taking different views and interpretations sometimes people at the time, sometimes later, trying to understand why they happened, and from that point of view people contemporaries might think they understand what is going on, but they don’t always, for there are things like baggage they bring with them which influence their understanding of it.  Or that they haven’t gotten the bigger picture, as they think they might, so they can’t see the outcomes like people later can do. So in that sense Historical is something that needs to be tested, undoubtedly something have happened, and you can’t deny that.

If you had a time machine and you could take one trip, either for research or for fun, where would you go, and why? –It would be absolutely fascinating to go somewhere like 8th century Britain, and do a quick tour around and see if its anything like what one think it would be, and to see people using the items doing things, and see what life was like, and see different monasteries and houses and things like that, I mean that would be absolutely fascinating to do, to see; have we got it right? Or are there all sorts of aspects of life that just haven’t been recorded which we can’t see, so there is all sorts of things like that which would have been wonderful to see,  and King Alfred himself is he an big impressive warrior or just a weedy scholar type, you know is he anything like what one think, and if it is just this small band of people who have produced this picture of Alfred as this scholarly king, when he in the fact only are rolling around on the sofas with his men, drinking, hunting and enjoying himself and saying;’ it would be quite useful if you did this job for me on my personality’, and maybe he turns out in the lines of a traditional Anglo-Saxon kings, just to see what he was really like.

If you could find the one object, text or anything, that you know have existed, or wish that could exist, what would it be? – well, something like a major text from Mercia would be nice, written from a Mercian perspective like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, or Bede’s Ecclesiastical History just based in Mercia, or something from that area that would open things up. It is difficult with one object, really, maybe another History, written on the same things as Bede but just from a Mercian perspective, or a Life of Offa the Great or something like that, to put along Alfred’s text, which would be extremely interesting.

We would like to thank Barbara Yorke for taking the time to this interview, and we hope that you, our reader, like us in the blog group have gotten to know this distinguished historian better.


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