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AJR Book Club - Daniel Snowman, author of 'Just Passing Through'

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Join us for a fascinating evening with author and social & cultural historian Daniel Snowman, in conversation with David Herman

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Author of over a dozen books, Daniel Snowman’s long and active life has led him to interact in countless ways with the wider world and with some of its most famous inhabitants. His memoir, Just Passing Through, evokes these experiences via a series of vivid literary vignettes.

Among such experiences are a Jewish child’s memories of the War and VE Day, colourful accounts of life and love in Cambridge and across JFK’s America (including civil rights work), the revolutionary ‘new map of learning’ with Asa Briggs at the University of Sussex, the heights (and depths) of the BBC in its heyday, choral concerts under the world’s top conductors, extended visits across Europe and the USA, to India and Bangladesh and the Arctic and Antarctic. Daniel describes the uses and abuses (and re-writing) of history as an increasingly anxious and digitised Western world moved on from 9/11 towards the era of Trump, Brexit, BLM, Coronavirus and beyond.

Along the way, we read of countless celebrities whom Daniel encounters in close-up as he watches Churchill making one of his last public speeches, talks at length with Harry Truman about Hiroshima, spends a week in Bayreuth with Wagner’s daughter-in-law, meets Pope John-Paul II, Isaiah Berlin and the enigmatic Lord Snowdon and gets to know many of the most famous among the ‘Hitler Emigrés’ and that controversial operatic superstar Plácido Domingo. Throughout, Daniel’s narrative is held together by a powerful central theme: the exciting if dangerous experience of questioning and passing through a wide range of supposedly sacrosanct boundaries: personal, religious, cultural, intellectual, political, institutional and geographical.

About the Author

Daniel Snowman is a social and cultural historian. Born in London in 1938, he was educated at Cambridge and Cornell and at 24 appointed Lecturer at the new University of Sussex. He went on to work at the BBC where, as Chief Producer (Features), he was responsible for a wide variety of radio broadcasts on cultural and historical subjects, specialising in ambitious, multi-programme projects.

A long-time member of the London Philharmonic Choir, Daniel has always had a strong and informed interest in music and musicians, his books on the Amadeus Quartet and Plácido Domingo combining close-up portraiture of the artists concerned with the broader brush of the social historian. His most recent books include a study of the cultural impact of the ‘Hitler Emigrés’, a collection of critical essays on the life and work of today's leading historians and a brief biography of Verdi. Daniel's 2009 book The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera has been published throughout the English-speaking world and is also available in several other languages.

Daniel has long been a regular lecturer at arts festivals, academic and cultural institutions, and since 1999 has delivered over 650 illustrated lectures for The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS). He has also led more than 50 music tours to major international venues across Europe and in the USA. In 2017 he presented a three-month course on the history of opera at the Victoria and Albert Museum to accompany their major exhibition on the subject, and has continued to lecture for the V&A on a variety of subjects over the years since.

Since 2004 Daniel has held a Senior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) where he has given lectures, organised and chaired academic and public seminars and recorded a succession of interviews with leading historians. In 2019, he was appointed a member of the Committee of the Friends of the IHR.

Daniel will be in conversation with David Herman, contributing editor of the AJR Journal and Chief Fiction Reviewer for the Jewish Chronicle.

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