What I do

I write history: industrial history, especially about early machine-making and textiles. Regional history, focused on northern England, mainly Yorkshire just now. And I revel in historic landscapes and old buildings, so I’m well into that too.

My publications range from the academic to the popular. The ideal is to mix academic respectability with accessibility. I try not to be dull. The Cable, about laying the first transatlantic telegraph, is now in its third edition. Paperbacks on the townscapes of Darlington and Sunderland, issued under the venerable banner of the Victoria County History during my days as Durham county editor, were well-received by reviewers and by local people.

And then I became more engaged with community history, working with volunteers, talking to and supporting people with serious historical interests who are not academics. My involvement with the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society has grown. Five years ago I became co-editor of the society’s journal. Now, somehow, I find myself YAHS president. The society publishes a lot, and so I’m drawn into thinking about the new shape of publishing, about social media, and the opportunities websites can give.

Some of my irons in the fire don’t fit neatly into conventional publishing. So here, I’m trying out new ways of presenting things. The plan is to write and then share the results as it goes along. Strawberry Bank is the first, an entirely new project. It is a story about real people, and has no obvious beginning or end. It will touch on memory, how reliable, how not, and how recollections differ and the truth is elusive. It is about the process of researching history, and how context matters in understanding historical events. This sounds boring, but it won’t be. I will be posting as I write, in short episodes which can be read as they roll in, or skipped through. It’s real, it’s immediate, it’s experimental. How it turns out – we’ll see.

Later some of my new research on Yorkshire machine-makers will be added to the Yorkshire Engineers part of the site. The ‘And what’s more’ page is a vehicle for a rant or two next time I become enraged by politics, the modern world, etc etc, which will be quite soon.

Gill Cookson

August 2016

© 2016