A Chat with Julian Humphrys

It has been a while since my talk with Julian took place. I remember it was a very hectic morning a the University and that this very nice man was coming to have a chat with me about what he did and who he was. Nonetheless, everything that could go wrong did, in fact, go wrong; my dictaphone did not load batteries properly and was not working, I had my computer with me, but not a single place to plug it in. All I had at the time, was a pen and a bit of paper. So from the very messy scribbles I took down that day, here I present you Julian Humphrys: a chat with him at the Learning Cafe, University of Winchester.

 

Interest in History:

When asked about this, Julian gave an answer that I personally share: how could anyone in England not be interested in history? The whole country breaths history in almost every single village. He mentions how his parents were always interested in the historical culture, so he was brought up in a history-friendly environment. Some of his early memories are the Westgate and St.Cross, here in Winchester. He also mentions a bookshop in Alresford where he saw an interesting book on the Victorian period. Currently, Julian’s main interest in history is related to battles and warfare. He particularly mentions his focus on battle fields, with special mention of Cheriton.

In addition, he suggested that his attraction towards history also benefited from his school teacher, as the history department was very active and they always made it fun. However, he does not agree with the common method of teaching history as a chronology and nothing more.

 

Julian’s Specialisation:

Since he graduated from university, most of the time he has been involved in the field of historical studies in a way or another. Julian is a writer but does not consider himself an academic historian. He is very keen on objects and the stories behind them: medals, castles, battlefields…

He mentions the time he spent working for the National Army Museum and how much he enjoyed but he decided that he needed new experiences. It is not surprising then to know that Julian is also qualified tour guide, has worked closely with English Heritage and is an expert in organising visits. Furthermore, he has written books on historical royal palaces. He said he is really curious about the private life in palaces, and the stories behind the people who lived in there. Also, he wrote the BBC History Magazine page. According to him, people are always interested in that sort of things, just like quizzes, like the one he was working on at the time we had the interview.

Finally, Julian says that the really exciting thing about his job is to get out there and talk to people about history, face to face. He is a person that loves to engage with the public, and that passion is easily noticed and transmitted when you speak to him, you can see that he is actually liking the fact you are asking questions and want to know more. Devoted, I think that is the word that defines him best. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that, currently, he is working for the Battlefield trust.

Approximately, this would be Julian’s brief chronology:

Southampton Grammar School—>Emmanuel College (Cam.)-Study modern history—>70s various jobs:painter-decorator—>Polytechnic North London-postgraduate in Information Studies—>Museum for c.15 years—>English Heritage—>Present

 

Best Thing Ever Done Related to History:

Although he seems reserved to tell us about it, very humbly, Julian explains how much he enjoyed building a collection about British activities in Bosnia. He did at all from scratch, trying to give importance to what was significant and what was not. One of his favourite parts of the collection was the story regarding a boot hole, because it explained the particular circumstances that boot had gone through.

Also, he tells us how much he appreciates it when guiding he would take a group to a place he would love and those people, after getting the explanation and the view, share the same love for the site.

The Time Machine Question:

As you probably know already, we determined long time ago that this question should be included in all of our interviews. So Julian was not an exception, and thank goodness, because his reply was very interesting.

He said he would really like to be able to go to India at the time of the mutiny against the British governance. He would have liked to know what the Indians actually thought about the British and if they actually saw them as oppressors or things were more complex.

 

So after a long conversation and much chatting my meeting with Julian comes to an end. This was a while ago, and I have not been able to update this interview before as I thought I had misplaced one of my papers, and I refused to make the post not having all of the information. Now that I have finally found all of the sheets, and have been able to produce a somewhat comprehensive text I hope you all can enjoy it, just as much as I did enjoy meeting Julian and knowing about his exciting and very inspiring life.

Hopefully, the long wait would not make it less worthy!

All this said, we all would like to thank Julian for the effort he did to come down to Winchester for this occasion and wish him all the best in his future and to his organisation Battlefield Trust!!

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