Norman Longmate, historian – obituary

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norman-longmate,-historian –-obituary

Norman Longmate, who has died aged 90, was a well-liked historian greatest recognized for his 1971 guide How We Lived Then, which used the recollections, diaries and letters of greater than a thousand folks to doc on a regular basis life in Britain through the Second World Warfare.

His intention was “to point out the influence of extraordinary occasions on atypical folks”. Historical past “from the underside up” was a novel strategy on the time, and whereas Longmate all the time needed his work to be accessible, his methodology was scholarly and primarily based on main sources the place potential.

How We Lived Then was extremely praised by critics. Cyril Connolly hailed it as “a landmine of knowledge” masking every little thing from the “grandeurs of the Blitz to the miseries of dried eggs and the six-inch tub”.

Longmate was, by his personal description, an “all day Saturday” historian, since for 20 years he labored Monday to Friday in an administrative publish on the BBC. On Saturday he anticipated “peace and quiet” from his household whereas he bashed away on the typewriter, however at 5 o’clock he would break off to play video games of his personal devising, equivalent to “submarines”, along with his small daughter.

How We Lived Then was adopted in 1972 by If Britain Had Fallen, a chilling “counterfactual” historical past for which he studied Nazi occupation plans in addition to analysing the German occupation of the Channel Islands.

The son of Ernest, a photographer, Norman Longmate was born on December 15 1925 at Newbury in Berkshire, the third of 4 siblings. His mom, Margaret (née Rowden), was a farmer’s daughter from Somerset; although she had left faculty at 13, she was a voracious reader and Norman thought of that he had inherited a few of his aptitude for writing from her.

The household was decreased to poverty when his father’s enterprise collapsed however Norman gained a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital, the place a superb instructor, D S Roberts, impressed him to develop into a historian.

Aged 17, Longmate – in borrowed uniform and metal helmet, each too massive for him – joined his faculty Dwelling Guard, and in 1944 he was referred to as up, becoming a member of the Royal Military Service Corps. He spent the final 12 months of the conflict in London and after VE Day travelled to Denmark as a part of the British army mission, stopping in Hamburg, the place he was shocked by the extent of the devastation brought on by Allied bombing. When his truck was on the transfer once more, he and his colleagues had been shot at by rogue bands of Nazis nonetheless roaming the countryside.

Aged 22, he went up as an exhibitioner to Worcester School, Oxford, to learn Trendy Historical past. He narrowly missed a First and stayed on for 2 years as a analysis pupil.

He started his first job as a frontrunner author on the London Night Normal. He quickly moved to the Each day Mirror as a function author, staying there for 3 years. However, feeling that he wanted to do one thing extra demanding, he utilized for and bought a publish on the Central Electrical energy Authority.

He was additionally briefly taken on as Labour parliamentary candidate for Newbury, however he was not in sympathy with the unilateral disarmers who dominated the social gathering, so he rapidly gave up his political ambitions.

An opportunity assembly with an old-fashioned modern who labored for BBC Colleges Tv led to a fee for a script. Extra had been commissioned, and by 1963 Longmate had been employed as producer of a brand new historical past and present affairs sequence on BBC Colleges Radio. From there he moved to a job within the Secretariat, the BBC’s “civil service”.

In the meantime, Longmate had already launched into his parallel profession as an creator, publishing his first guide, A Socialist Anthology, in 1953, and a second, Oxford Triumphant, on undergraduate life, a 12 months later. The chapter about intercourse precipitated explicit controversy.

His third guide was a detective novel referred to as Dying Received’t Wash. It was the primary in a sequence of 5 that includes Detective Superintendent Herbert Bradbury; all included the phrase “dying” within the title to tell apart them from any straight novels he may write, however they by no means materialised.

His first work of social historical past was King Cholera, printed in 1966. It was adopted by The Waterdrinkers: A Historical past of Temperance in 1968. After How We Lived Then he turned out roughly a guide a 12 months till slowing down in his mid-seventies.

He additionally wrote freelance documentaries for radio and acted as a historic adviser on numerous tv tasks, together with the Yorkshire TV sequence How We Used to Dwell.

The Actual Dad’s Military (1974) was written to accompany an exhibition on the Imperial Warfare Museum, and the seventh sequence of the favored tv sitcom. It recorded the morale-boosting impact of the Dwelling Guard in addition to moments of comedy, such because the event when troops mistook a hedgehog for the pinnacle of “a cunningly camouflaged” German paratrooper. Anthony Eden (Lord Avon), who as conflict secretary had based the Native Volunteer Power, attended the launch.

Longmate’s different titles included The GIs: The People in Britain 1942-1945 (1976); When We Received the Warfare (1977); Air Raid: The Bombing of Coventry 1940 (1978); and The Doodlebugs: The Story of the Flying Bombs (1981).

Longmate was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historic Society in 1981 and in 1983 took early retirement from the BBC. He started work on a brand new mission, a two-volume historical past of all of the makes an attempt to invade the British Isles, which was first printed in 1989. An autobiography, The Shaping Season, was printed in 2000.

Norman Longmate was good firm and had many pals, whom he would typically entertain at Elm Tree in Hampshire, a thatched cottage he purchased as a retreat with the proceeds from his books.

In 1953 he married Elizabeth (Betty) Taylor. Later they lived aside and he or she died in 2011. Lately he discovered happiness with a brand new associate, Pam, who survives him with the daughter from his marriage, Jill.

Norman Longmate, born December 15 1925, died June 4 2016

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