My career after Cambridge University began as a writer and teacher and I am ending it as a writer and teacher. Somewhere in the middle I had a long and absorbing career in broadcasting, predominantly for the BBC.

In the 1970s I was very happily engaged producing a range of Radio 4 programmes from chat (Start the Week) to debates (You the Jury) to documentaries.

In 1981 I moved to BBC TV Documentary Department to produce more debates (Man Alive) but after that I was given several history series as Executive Producer. I suppose it is every programme maker's dream to be given a huge budget, a fascinating subject and plenty of time to go away and create a series of films. It does not happen any more! I was very lucky to be given this chance twice, and to be in a position to recruit a talented creative team. 'The Road to War,' narrated by that remarkable BBC correspondent, the late Charles Wheeler, was a country-by- country account of the causes of World War Two. The 'Living Islam' series took me all over the world with the Pakistani diplomat and academic Akbar Ahmed to make films about 'What it means to be a Muslim in today's world'. In between I versioned the famous American TV series about the Civil War by Ken Burns which won both of us (mostly Ken) a BAFTA for the best foreign film.

History for TV and radio is all about eyewitnesses and oral testimony. My claim is that I interviewed people who were close to the great dictators of the 20th century – Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. I got to know the British Fascist Leader Oswald Mosley and made his Radio 4 obituary programme.

I left the BBC in 2003 and became director and history chief of an independent TV company called CAFÉ. It made international co-productions and proved very successful – for a while! I liked the international bit so after CAFÉ folded I went to the national film schools of India and Cuba as a documentary teacher and spent 9 months in Denmark at the European Film College. This interest in TV history took me to Europe where I was elected President of MAP TV, standing for Memory Archive Programmes. I chaired a Europe-wide committee offering development grants paid for by the European Union for history films about Europe. As a result I was made a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. 

In 2004 I had another lucky break. Heidi Gronaeur, the head of the Zelig Film School in Italy, had just won a contract to head up a new EU Media Training Course to encourage and enable documentary filmmakers to work in the area of human rights. She asked me if I was interested in becoming the Head of Studies.  Could I say no?

All the while I was keeping up with my writing, of course. When I had no time to write books I wrote articles (see 'Articles') mostly for the magazine History Today.

Partly due to my love of India, which I have visited more than 30 times, I was a tour guide for a while, taking parties to visit sites of the Indian Mutiny and other conflicts. From this came my cruise ship lecturing: this has majored on the Baltic Sea, the Indian Ocean the Bay of Bengal.

I write in an airy bolt hole in the Brecon Beacons, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK and apart from good exercise in the hills, there are good friends, music and film galore.  In London I share an apartment with my wife, Margaret. But you will also find me at documentary film festivals across Europe.

Saltkantay

Saltkantay

I used to take time off to trek up Himalayan peaks, across the Andes and mountains in North and East Africa, but falling down one put paid to that! Never mind - taking the pretty route has many compensations, and I am as curious as ever about world cultures and explore them wherever they are whenever I can.