The Value of Diverse Interests

A while ago, I received an email from someone that had read A Ray of Light. It’s always a pleasure to get an email from a reader, but this one was a little different. The reader, Meg, was about to start the final year of her undergraduate degree at Durham University. Her dissertation is about the concept of “places of memory”, and she was intending to focus on Lidice.

We arranged to meet so that she could ask me some questions about the story of Lidice, and my opinions on certain aspects of the story and remembrance. The resulting conversation was fascinating. My background is military history, and I’ve been interested in the Second World War since I was a child. That naturally informed the way I approached the story of Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent when researching and writing my book. Not being a military historian, Meg approaches it from a completely different angle. Because of this, she asked questions that I hadn’t considered, and probably never would have. As well as Lidice specifically, We talked about remembrance and commemoration in general, and she challenged my ideas on some things.

I’ve written before about the importance of diversity. Then, I was referring to diversity of gender, race, etc. But the meeting with Meg was an example of the value of another kind of diversity — that of specialism. Military historians looking at a given subject will generally reach similar conclusions. But someone with a different interest will see things that the military historians miss, and will consequently ask new questions, revealing new insights. This can only be a good thing for the discipline and for our understanding of history in general.