I joined Warwick in 1967 – in the middle of the second year of teaching. This slightly eccentric starting date was made possible by the unique syllabus which had been created for History by John Hale, the Founding Professor, and his first colleagues, with chronology inverted so that the first students studied modern history before turning to the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The other unique feature in which I was instantly involved was the emphasis on compulsory study abroad, with a semester at a US University in the second year and a Warwick-taught programme in Venice in the third year. I was thus on hand in October 1967 to welcome the first group of 30 students off the train at Venice station. They were dazed, not only by the 24-hour journey across Europe and the extraordinary sights of canals lapping at the station steps, but also by the fact that, once again, they were ‘guinea pigs’. This had been their role since their first moment at Warwick, and while some were clearly irked by the situation, the majority took it in their stride and set out to make the best of an extraordinary opportunity.
On Day 2, the families with which they were staying bore them away to festive lunches in the family homes, from which they returned in the afternoon in varying stages of inebriation, for their first lecture. There were even mutterings that they would never get good degrees if they had to have champagne lunches all the time!