History is like a dense forest – a mesmerising, living and growing organism. There are openings, where light comes in that reveals paths. But it’s difficult to find your way. A path you enter rarely discloses the entire wood.
Humans wander along the paths, often in groups, sometimes alone. Studying these people isn’t an exact science. I look for patterns and exceptions in group behaviour, but just because somebody is a member of a group doesn’t mean they always behave as can be expected of that group.
So, I don’t ignore actions taken by individuals – outstanding persons as well as ordinary people, who all give shape to history.
Looking closely at personal circumstances and characteristics also lays bare the fragility of human life, but it emphasises life’s tenacity too. Humans easily get lost in the forest of history, but despite their losses, when they find love, people stubbornly cling to life.
As a historian, I’m curious about where we came from, how we got here and what made us the way we are. My main area of interest is integration of immigrants and their descendants into western European societies during the modern era.
At present, I research attitudes to immigrants in Great Britain between 1921 and 2021 and the language used to put these feelings into words. In this study I apply a linguistic historical approach to throw new light on past events and developments.
I’m also interested in the subject of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust and a member of the forum Jews Saving Jews at the Faculty of Jewish Studies of Bar-Ilan University. My latest book is on individuals and small groups in Jewish resistance in the Netherlands.
My work on these subjects has been acknowledged through an appointment as Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Humanities of the University of Glasgow.
The photos on this page are by Norma Braber-McKinney.