In this highly readable but completely unconventional book Asa Briggs, writer, lecturer and professor, wellknown on both sides of the Atlantic, goes back in time to his own hometown, Keighley in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, now incorporated in Bradford.
He describes how he got his unusual name, a question often put to him, and considers whether having been born in an industrial town surrounded by moors has shaped his writing and his ideas of history.
He has been a pioneer in many fields of history, particularly the history of the Victorians and the history of broadcasting, and in this book he traces what he calls special relationships which have inspired his writing in those and other fields, including the history of wine and of sport.
A great traveller with a strong sense of the visual, he lists Leeds, Birmingham, Chicago and Melbourne among places that figure in his own map of learning, a term that he was the first to use.
He also speculates on time travel.
His career has been as unconventional as this book.
While working in universities at home and abroad from 1945 to 1994, he has had an exceptionally wide range of friends, including many outside academic life, and he focusses on them rather than himself, although the book has an important autobiographical dimension.
They include John Reith, Dennis Foreman, Harold Macmillan,
Jim Callaghan, Denis and Edna Healey, Richard Crossman, John Fulton, Jennie Lee, Denys Lasdun, Penelope Lively, P. D. James, Geoffrey Heyworth, John Sainsbury and his neighbour in Scotland who, alas, died young, Alistair Grant.
The last chapter deals in detail with his birthday year and with the 50th anniversary of the University of Sussex and the 40th anniversary of the enrolment of the first students in the Open University, but the book as a whole offers a portrait of an age.
The tree on the front of this dust jacket is more than symbolic. This book ends not with people or with places but with trees.