Autobiographies

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John Burrow

Autobiographies are a far less popular genre in Italy than in the Anglo-American world, as Peter Hainsworth and Martin McLaughlin (2007: 1, 9) note. And the one I am about to signal has only passing references to Italy so I have to apologise for stretching the boundaries of what visitors to this site would expect to find here. But the autobiography by the intellectual historian John Burrow who died in 2009 is so full of subtle portraits, colour and wit and can only be found rather far off the normal search track that I thought it would be worth flagging here. Since his last major work, A History of Histories (2007), contains substantial sections on Ancient Rome’s historians and on Villani, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, his autobiography also provides an unmissable insight into the ingredients which went into his approach to them. The title he chose, Memories Migrating, suggests a resonance with Australian experiences even though the only mention of this country is a brief allusion to his tenure of a visiting fellowship at the ANU in 1983. An equally well-hidden autobiography by another historian, Patrick Collinson, a contemporary of Burrow, has an engaging chapter on the author’s time in Sydney University’s Department of History in the early 1970s. (DM)

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