Humanising Historians: Jon Hogg

Posted on: 14 November 2023 by Dr Jon Hogg in 2023 posts

Jon Hogg standing against a beach backdrop

In this month's Humanising Historians blog, Senior Lecturer Dr Jon Hogg discusses how his interest in History grew alongside his life experiences and other personal interests.

Have you always liked History?

I think so, but in ways that I didn’t always realise. I went to a Welsh-medium comprehensive school in rural south-West Wales after spending the first eleven years of my life in Somerset. Moving to Wales was an eye-opening experience and, although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, growing up in two countries in the UK taught me a lot about respecting the deep-seated origins of varied identities, ideas, beliefs, and histories.

In Wales, the valley I lived in was home to 13th Century castle ruins – including Dinefwr and Dryslwyn – and was also an area where low-flying military jets regularly flew. An odd contrast. There were also plenty of reminders about what we might call ‘English colonialism’, which left me with a slightly confused ‘British’ identity (and accent) of my own! Funnily enough, this often awkward juxtaposition of ideas, identities, histories and experiences does inform the work I do now. Thinking about this more, the contrasts were everywhere when I was at school - the Super Furry Animals arriving to the nearby National Eisteddfod in a tank was a particular highlight. 

Do you like music, then?

Yes. One personal highlight was Glastonbury 97 when I saw Radiohead just after they’d released OK Computer. My family always listened to music when I was growing up, and it’s really fun introducing my sons to new and old music. We went to the Green Man Festival this year, and we particularly enjoyed Young Fathers, Amyl and the Sniffers, and Goat. I do play guitar and piano, but not enough these days. My five year old enjoys nothing more than playing his harmonica as loudly as possible.   

So, how did you end up in Liverpool?

When I chose to study History at University, I didn’t really know what to expect because my parents hadn’t gone to University. I’d done ok in my A-Levels, and I loved the history of political thought when we discussed the topic briefly during A-Level History. So, I chose to study History and Politics as a joint honours degree. Liverpool was one of my choices because I was a keen footballer, and Liverpool were obviously the best team to support. I am in Liverpool now because I never left! After my BA and MA degrees, I could have moved elsewhere to research for my PhD but decided to stay in Liverpool because of all the friends I have here, and because it is a brilliant place to live.  

What do you like to do to switch off as a hobby

Running is really important to me, although I’m not as disciplined as I could be, or as fast as I used to be! I did the Tour of Merseyside this Summer, which is a week of running - 52 miles spread across 6 races - and completed my 100th parkrun early this year. I’ve entered a half marathon in January, so I’m currently persuading myself to start training properly! I occasionally run with Stephen Kenny who is as fit as a butcher’s dog.

I also love cycling, and I try to commute by ferry as often as I can. We live in New Brighton, and during the pandemic we got to know the beach at Leasowe Bay really well. Our sons love it there, and it is a truly relaxing place to be. With Christmas on the horizon, much of the conversation in our house has turned to Star Wars Lego. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve enjoyed reacquainting myself with the Star Wars films, and building Lego is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Who doesn’t love Baby Yoda?   

What are you currently reading and why?

I’m currently at the start of a new research project on British nuclear test veterans, so I’m spending a lot of time reading on the social history of nuclear weapons testing. In terms of reading for pleasure, I recently enjoyed Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Blue Book of Nebo by Mannon Steffan Ros. Maybe because my research area can be quite intense I often turn to brilliant writers like Stephen King who can whisk you off to another world, and combine big ideas with wonderful storytelling. I’ve recently been flicking through his book On Writing, which I’d recommend. Although I now veer towards page-turners during my spare time, I recently appreciated John Sweeney’s book on Putin, Olivette Otele’s, African Europeans: An Untold History, and Vron Ware’s Return of a Native: Learning From the Land. I have a growing pile of books waiting to be read over Christmas!

What kind of TV programmes interest you and why? Any guilty pleasures?

There is so much good quality TV now, it is hard to know where to start. Anything with Sharon Horgan in is brilliant, and Bad Sisters was amazing. We have a real mix of TV programmes on in our house, but I’ve a long-standing passion for film – and especially ones that make you slow down and think. Only the other day I realised that I’ve never watched The Conversation (from 1974 starring Gene Hackman, directed by Francis Ford Coppella), so I caught up with that. It acts an amazingly prescient commentary on the morality of surveillance culture. I also recently watched The Burial (2023, starring Jamie Foxx, directed by Maggie Betts) which is based on the true story of a small business owner who takes a billionaire to court. It is also a shrewd portrayal of racial politics and culture in 1990s America.

As with reading, I will often veer towards the lighter side when it comes to TV. I love watching live sport and comedy, and have a long-standing obsession with Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. I love Brass Eye and Chris Morris, and I think a new wave of satirical comedy is very much needed at the moment.  My guilty pleasure is probably Gogglebox, which is great to wind down to.