When we dwell on the enormity of the Second World War and its victims, we try to absorb all those statistics of national and ethnic tragedy. But, as a result, there is a tendency to overlook the way the war changed even the survivors' lives in ways impossible to predict.
It is this compulsion to look backwards at a time of crisis because one's got no idea of what lies ahead. There is a notion of security that somehow it must resemble the past. It's never going to. Just because we muddled through in the past doesn't mean we can automatically muddle through in the future.
The great European dream was to diminish militant nationalism. We would all be happy Europeans together. But we are going to see the old monster of militant nationalism being awoken when people realise how little control their politicians have.
At the beginning of June 1944, the war was reaching a climax. German troops had been brutalised by the savagery of the ongoing fighting in Russia, where the Red Army was secretly preparing its vast encirclement of the Germans' Army Group Centre.
The temptation in any approaching crisis or conflict is, because people haven't got a clue what lies ahead, they're always searching into the past for some sort of pattern ... to galvanise the nation or their supporters and put themselves on a pedestal to sound Churchillian or Rooseveltian.
I think it's outrageous if a historian has a 'leading thought' because it means they will select their material according to their thesis.
If you smash a city when you're trying to capture it, you actually end up providing the perfect terrain for the defenders while blocking the access for your own armoured vehicles.
At a purely practical level, history is important because it provides the basic skills needed for students to go further in sociology, politics, international relations and economics. History is also an ideal discipline for almost all careers in the law, the civil service and the private sector.
The great help of being in the Army is to understand why are the armies clever in what they describe as emotional intelligence, making soldiers come to terms with the death of comrades by certain rituals.
Teaching the history of the British Empire links in with that of the world: for better and for worse, the Empire made us what we are, forming our national identity. A country that does not understand its own history is unlikely to respect that of others.
I believe passionately in preemptive pessimism, especially before a book comes out. I expect the worst both from reviewers and sales, and then, with any luck, I may be proved wrong.
I get slightly obsessive about working in archives because you don't know what you're going to find. In fact, you don't know what you're looking for until you find it.
In the Iraq war, for instance, so much of the information is digitized and can easily be wiped out. That will make it very hard to write accurate histories. Also, there's a much greater opportunity for suppression of information before it can even be archived.
What is terrifying is the ability, through mass brainwashing or propaganda, to change normal human instinct, which does not necessarily contain very much hatred.
I used to write in a room overlooking the valley from where I could see too much, whether checking the sheep and alpacas or seeing the trout rise on the lake.
School-leavers unfortunately will come away thinking the First World War consisted simply of 'going over the top' on the Western Front to slaughter in no-man's-land, when the conflict extended so much further, to the collapse of four empires and numerous civil wars.
I'm often reassured in a bizarre - perhaps perverse - way when I find in the archive stuff that contradicts what my assumptions have been. That's interesting and exciting.
Counter-knowledge covers the propagation of false legends and conspiracy theories often used for political purposes or fundamentalist religious propaganda.
The vital thing for me is to integrate the history from above with the history from below because only in that way can you show the true consequences of the decisions of Hitler or Stalin or whomever on the ordinary civilians caught up in the battle.
When I was younger I used to get my best writing done at night, but now it has to be during the day. I usually finish work at half past seven, then go back to the house to open a bottle of wine, have dinner, and then read or watch television.