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Alumni Perspective: Hugh Purcell

Hugh Purcell (Selwyn 1961)


Looking back to my time studying history at Selwyn 1961-1964, it was not  the acquiring of knowledge that was of value – whether ‘the mind of the pre-bellum south’ or even ‘the foundations of the English constitution at the Tudor court’ – but improving the skills set required to study. The assessment of material, the shaping of argument, the forming of a conclusion, were all skills required subsequently in the production of BBC TV and radio history programmes, which is how I spent my career; though there was a second stage common more to journalism  than essay writing, namely the turning of the answer into a story.

I must mention the main benefit that I got out of my time at Cambridge. I found out who I was. I arrived as a public school clone, believing I was a Christian officer and gentleman, and left as a secular, rational democrat believing in equality of opportunity. It was a hugely formative three years.