Lecturer’s love of history sees him co-design major Magna Carta event
Connecting famous events of the past with those of the present is the passion of a University lecturer who’s helped spearhead a major historical exhibition.
Dr Toby Purser, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, is a former history teacher and Deputy Head. Aside from his lecturing duties Toby has also served as a historical adviser to an international event about the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta (or Great Charter) is a document guaranteeing English political liberties, the original version of which was sealed by King John in 1215, following political discord about his rule.
Now, an exhibition called ‘Tyranny. Justice. Liberty’ is being held in Washington D.C. – starting this Friday – that showcases a copy of one of the original, subsequent versions.
The event takes in several hundred years of history from Magna Carta’s creation to its impact and influence on American independence.
Toby has been instrumental in designing the exhibition from scratch, which also includes A-list actor and director Andy Serkis playing King John in short films co-written by Toby. He says: “Although we have been planning the exhibition for some time, our recent periods of political upheaval give it added relevancy.
“This is what makes Magna Carta so vital today. With events earlier this year in the US capitol, we have seen tyranny happening in front of our eyes. Frightening but also an opportunity for reflection and to use the past to help inform the future.
“This is where Magna Carta comes in as it is our benchmark. It established that Kings and Presidents come and go, but what remains constant is a written constitution.”
History is the passion that also informs some of Toby’s extracurricular life. Since 2014 with the publication of The Zaharoff Conspiracy, he has also been an author of historical fiction.
Toby – who has just finished his next book called The Making of England: from Rome to Reformation (out in 2022) – continues: “I’m interested in using history as a tool to understand the present as well as the past. I’m fascinated in exploring the intersection between actual history and the dramas of fiction, the allegories and reflections.
“Mind, it’s also important as an author – and, of course, historian! – to not get carried away by the drama. It’s a fine balancing act between being ‘true’ to what happened then, but also taking that necessary leap of faith. I just hope my love of bringing the past to life, putting flesh on the bones, entertains as well as educates people and, above all else, does justice to the past.”