The Passionate Historian: A Conversation with John Elliott

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - History

This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and John Elliott, Regius Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Oxford and Honorary Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford and Trinity College, Cambridge. This extensive conversation provides behind-the-scenes insights into how an undergraduate encounter with a 17th-century painting of The Count-Duke Olivares led John Elliott on a lifelong odyssey to study the history of Spain, Europe and the Americas in the early modern period to become one of the greatest Spanish historians of our age. 

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Two Cheers for Objectivity, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Beginnings - The benefits of travel

II. In Search of Objectivity - Sentimental dangers

III. Past and Present - How to revivify yourself

IV. Circumventing Obstacles - The benefits of pressing on

V. Doing History - Comparing, connecting and writing well

VI. The Power of Imagination - Surprise tests and non-barking dogs

VII. Decline - What it means, exactly

VIII. The Impact of Technology - Strengths and weaknesses

IX. Going Global - Opportunities and challenges

X. History’s Due - Beyond the theme park

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series: 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
In Search of Objectivity
Past and Present
Circumventing Obstacles
Doing History
The Power of Imagination
The Impact of Technology
Going Global
Continuing the Conversation

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games.

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