“I got my first degree at Cambridge and my doctorate at Oxford, where I then became a junior 'don'. I moved to Bristol because the Department of History gave me the opportunity to teach whatever I liked in History, and that’s why I remain here after thirty years. I have a love of spanning periods of time and subjects. I make a joke that I use to range very widely, but that I now specialise in the period between the Old Stone Age and the present. I write “Big History” as the Americans call it. It is less common in British universities.
“I like the West Country. Bristol sits in a heavenly area for somebody with my wide interests. There is wonderful archaeology: the Old Stone Age remains at Cheddar, the New Stone Age tombs upon the hills around us, the great stone circles of the Late Neolithic at Avery. We have garlands of Iron Age hill fort settlements, we have the Roman remains of Bath and Caerleon, and we have wonderful Anglo-Saxon settlements and excellent Medieval remains.
“I teach students from undergraduates to postgraduates. I make sure I lecture all the first-year students each year, so that they get to know me. I have a lot of postgraduate students who come from a wide social and international background. The students at Bristol are the best in the UK. They are very intelligent, nice to each other and to us, and are heavenly to teach.”