Sometimes I think I’m a jack of many trades and master of none. But on a good day I tell myself that, as a historian, there may be some merit in this. History – of all disciplines – surely invites cross-fertilisation with others. Yet I sense that much historical research continues to be specialist and, in general, to marginalise the arts (especially ‘classical’ music), historians preferring to leave them to the experts. For its part, much arts history continues to be largely preoccupied with its own often esoteric subject matter.
Things used to be a lot worse. When I was at Cambridge half a century ago, ‘history’ concentrated on great public trends and events and the men responsible for them. By the later 1960s and 1970s, the historiographical barometer was swinging towards the story of ‘ordinary’ people. This