Authorship, Memory & Manuscripts 2014

Dr Anthony Seldon, 'Writing about Prime Ministers from Cameron backwards'

Monday 27 January 2014.

Dr Anthony Seldon gave the final seminar [PDF, 829KB; the key to the initials used in these speaking notes is in the box on the right of this page] Bin the 'Authorship, Memory & Manuscripts' series curated by Helen Langley.

Drawing on his extensive experience of writing about Prime Ministers - nine of the twelve from Winston Churchill's 1951 government onwards (including biographies of Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and, currently, the official biography of David Cameron) - Dr Seldon surveyed their premierships; assessing war service; culture and art [MP3, 2m21s, 2.15MB]; background, suitability, experience, advice/support; aims/clarity; condition on arrival; writing of memoirs, and post premier careers. Marks were allocated comparing them at the beginning and end of their premierships. The seminar was chaired by Sir David Butler.

In his opening remarks about contemporary history [MP3, 2m33s, 2.4MB], Dr Seldon referred to the 1000+ interviews he has conducted in the course of writing about prime ministers. These typed records, 4-5 million words in some 1500 interviews which are now in the Bodleian will, at some (distant) future date, be made available to researchers.

Several members of the capacity audience contributed to the discussion which followed the papers. Dr Seldon responds to a question from Dr Lawrence Goldman, editor of Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, about agenda-changing prime ministers [MP3, 4m44s, 4.3MB].

Display gallery

A one-day, exhibition display At Home in No 10 accompanied the seminar.

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