‘Footfall is as engaging as it gets. Cassandra James is . . . a terrific character, beautifully honed from seemingly staid academic to feisty heroine . . . a truly breathtaking read.’


A poignant experience

I always feel at home in a library or an archive. When I made an appointment last week to visit Sheffield University library, it took me back to the many days I’ve spent doing research in the British Library, the V & A library, the Courtauld Institute, and elsewhere. I arrived at the library, and was given a day pass. I put my bag in a locker, keeping just my notebook and pencil and phone with me. It was all very familiar.

The documents that I’d come to see had already been laid out for me on a table in an air-conditioned room, where other researchers were also at work. And this is where the strangeness began. They were plans of my own house, which Peter and I bought and extensively restored as our married home nearly thirty years ago. I could never have imagined that documents so intimately connected with my own life would become part of an archive, still less that I would one day be consulting them.

I  wrote here how I prepared Peter’s archive to go to the Special Collections at Sheffield Universiity. In the end it was 56 boxes, rather than 48, and I am still finding the odd box of slides or folder of documents that need to go to the archive. The transfer was delayed by Covid, but about 18 months ago, it did at last go. It’s a comfort to know that it has been so carefully catalogued. Thank you so much, Mariam Yamin, you have done Peter proud! His archive is no longer gathering dust at home and is in good hands, available for other scholars to consult.

Peter will always be a presence in my life, and the lives of his children and his sisters, and, I am sure, of a wider circle of family, friends and colleagues. But as I sat there leafing through the plans, it felt like another stage in the acceptance of loss.

 My husband, once so alive, so full of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, is a part of history now.


  1. Margot Kinberg
    May 8, 2023

    That must have been bittersweet indeed, Christine. How nice, though, that Paul’s intellectual legacy will be preserved. It was good of you to share it with everyone. And of course, his personal legacy will be there always, too. Thinking of you as you move along on this path.

    • Christine Poulson
      May 10, 2023

      Thanks so much, Margot. Yes, bittersweet, but I have a sense of achievement too.


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