ALAN Palmer taught Sir Winston Churchill's biographer and has been fascinated by global events and politics throughout his life. Georgina Campbell spoke to the author on his new – 34th – book.

A MASTERMIND of history with a passion for international affairs has published his latest work at the age of 91.

Alan Palmer used an iPad to write book 34 – 'The Wireless in the Corner' – which he describes as a personalised history, taking his readers through his early childhood in the 1920s through to the Second World War.

Based on diary entries, family letters, photographs and newspaper cuttings, the book chronicles Mr Palmer's life as a boy brought up in suburban London.

He said: "Nothing in my childhood stands so sharply etched in memory as this transition from peace to war, with its strange mixture of drama, pathos, anticlimax and near farce.

"Almost certainly at no other time did we as a family find ourselves so dependent on the wireless."

Drawing on his sharp visual memory, Mr Palmer recounts his early life as the only child of elderly parents living at Gants Hill in Ilford.

After a trip to Belgium, aged six, Mr Palmer became gripped by events in Europe and observing international affairs became as much a hobby as collecting stamps.

He said: "It was the trigger, I would say, to my fascination with international affairs.

"I will never forget a trip I had as a young boy to Paris.

"We were in a park and there was quite a large pond there where people were sailing boats.

"When France fell to the Nazis I remember this overwhelming feeling of sadness that there would be no little sailing boats on that pond."

Before living at St Luke's Hospital care home in Headington, Mr Palmer resided in Woodstock for 42 years.

But his links to Oxford go even further back, when he was a student and won a scholarship to study history at Oriel College in the 1940s.

Mr Palmer said: "At the time I was also doing training as a naval cadet.

"We went to tutorials on Monday and Wednesday and on the other days we were in training at the HQ based at the Christ Church boathouse.

"I remember all those times we were out on the boats trying not to crash."

Despite his age, Mr Palmer does not plan on slowing down anytime soon and already has another book idea up his sleeve.

Before starting his career as a freelance writer in 1969, he was the head of history at Highgate School in London.

During his 18 years there he taught the likes of Sir Martin Gilbert – Sir Winston Churchill's biographer – the inspiration for his next book.

Mr Palmer said: "It may be fun for me to have a little book about teaching and the joy you can get from it.

"I remember in a book Sir Martin had written about Churchill he said that he first became interested in history in my lessons because I made my lesson a bit like a detective story.

"I loved teaching, it is a very rewarding profession."

Among the biographies and historic narratives he has penned over the decades, including some with his late wife Veronica, which have been translated into 18 languages and published in 22 countries, Mr Palmer also supplied more than 3,000 specialist questions for the original series of Mastermind on the BBC.

His knowledge of European History and the London's past tested contestants on the popular TV show.

For more information about Mr Palmer and his work visit