I spent Wednesday of this week with my head buried in old government documents – top secret files dating back to 1943 onwards. The papers in question were colonial records, newly released at the National Archives.
Aside from the thrill of being among the first people to study these documents in seven decades, it was fascinating, for the insight into the history and politics of the time, and for what they revealed about British manners in he 1940s. My research yielded several news stories: about British attitudes before the end of the Mandate period, the High Commissioner’s thought on the Jewish fighters, the situation of Arab nationalism during the Second World War, and about how the SS Exodus incident was viewed by British diplomats.
Elsewhere, I enjoyed a preview of Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher, learning that she felt that the Finchley Tories were sacrificing Jewish voters. I covered a Channel Four documentary on the property boom in Gaza, speaking to the presenter about what he found, and reported on the sale of a poem by an extraordinary Victorian writer and feminist, whom Oscar Wilde viewed as a rare talent.
In comment, I wrote about why communal squabbling was not only childish, but ultimately destructive, and enjoyed the fact that all three of the commissioned comment pieces (not including the regular columns) were written by women.
I also familiarised myself with some of the history of Israeli art, from the latter part of the 19th century to modern day, and heard from the author of a new book on the subject why there is more to the country’s cultural heritage than pictures of camels.
Finally, I wrote for the Independent on the subject of role models, discussing whether the contributions of celebrities could ever be of educational value.