Claire Noble

Claire Noble MA PhD (UEA) FRHistS

‘The idea of time travel is fascinating. Many are enchanted (tax aside) by the resonance of fine wines and brandies and others by the provenance of classic cars and works of art. For me, handling papers written in the trenches of the first world war or working with manuscripts from a medieval monastery are ways to connect with the past in a very real way. Digitisation is great for accessibility, but hands-on working with documents is the real romance: touching what was written in a monastery hundreds of years ago, or even simply produced in an English government department in the time of Chaucer. Or reading an eyewitness account of a shipwreck. It’s all only one or two steps removed from past times and past events.’

‘The vast archive of Norwich Cathedral Priory was my proving ground as a historian, and the information generated by various monastic officials became the bread-and-butter of my doctoral thesis. Since then, the study of history has opened many doors onto the world for me and it is an excellent way to understand contemporary cultures. What makes a place or country the way it is? What influences, what narratives, what people have shaped to past to make the present? And where does the future lie?’

‘I can make the sober, intellectual case for studying history. But on a day-to-day basis, the thrill and enjoyment lies in the detective work, working on subjects close to one’s heart. The chase. The discovery. Knowing which types of documents are likely to yield a haul of information, then casting across the sources to find something completely unexpected. It’s a real buzz and, working as a freelance historian, I get to enjoy the privilege of associating with those who have a real feel and connection with their own work.’

Keywords for Claire’s published research: Norwich, Benedictines, knights hospitaller, Carbrooke, gardens, inquisitions post mortem, writs

Favourite reads: Richard Morris, Churches in the Landscape (1989); H.R. Patch, Some Elements in Mediaeval Descriptions of the Otherworld (1918); Graham Robb, The Ancient Paths: discovering the lost map of Celtic Europe (2013).

Link to Jonathan Mackman