Introducing… Jon Lawrence
What’s your background?
In many ways I am the fag-end of a classic post-war British stereotype: the working-class, scholarship boy. My direct-grant grammar school in Bristol lost its government support while I was there in the mid-1970s and is now fee-paying. An avid reader of Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams as a teenager, I have gone on to pursue the sorts of questions about popular culture, class politics and everyday life that this intellectual pedigree dictates (albeit modified to pay closer attention to the politics of gender and ethnicity than they felt necessary). I have held full-time teaching positions at the Universities of Liverpool, Harvard and Cambridge, and since 2017 I have been part-time Professor of History at the University of Exeter, devoting the additional spare time that comes from being employed 60% partly to writing and partly to restoring a sprawling Victorian nature garden on the edge of Dartmoor.
Jon Lawrence at home
In one sentence, what is your role on the project?
My principal role is to help ensure that we are always asking historically important questions that make the most of big data.
What excites you about the project?
The genuinely inter-disciplinary ethos and methods at the heart of the project, and the chances this offers me to learn new skills and new ways of asking historical questions.
What challenges do you see ahead?
As I see it, the biggest challenge will be reconciling the radically open, collaborative ethos of the project’s participants with our obligations to underlying rights holders.
What’s the last (non-work) book you read, exhibition or performance you saw?
Last weekend I attended multiple events at the Chagword Literary Festival near where I live on Dartmoor. As part of this event I helped my partner to organise a small, pop-up fringe poetry event which got me reading the nature poems of Gerald Manley Hopkins for the first time in ages.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your work?
You can find out more about my working life from my Exeter website, and if you want to know more about my non-working life you can visit the website my partner and I have created about our new life on the ‘edge of the moor’.