Not since A.L. Rowse published his memoir “On Historians”, has such an exquisite witty and perceptive memoir been published by a celebrated historian.
In many ways, Sir Michael is an establishment figure (knighthood, Order of Merit) but his influence of the way we live and think has been remarkable. Awarded the Military Cross in the Second World War, he recounts how between battles he befriended the young film director Franco Zefirelli. His account of beating the Germans out of Italy with Bishop Simon Phipps and the ballet critic Richard Buckle is hilarious.
Back in Oxford after the war he gives the reader delicious insight into the backbiting of academic life, including some perceptive portraits of Hugh Trevor Roper, Keith Thomas and A.L. Rowse. Howard had a major influence on the strategic and defence policy of the country and first made his name as a military historian. Eventually he pipped many more obvious candidates to the post to become Regius Professor of History because he claims he was the only candidate that the Queen had heard of (as the name indicates it is a Royal Appointment).
Sir Michael has been substantially responsible for the burgeoning of First World War studies, its history and its literature in schools and universities. This is a short memoir of exquisite charm, which gives special insight into the history of Britain in the post war years.