Alan Mcfarlane: In search of lost time: Memory and autobiography

Speaker: Alan Mcfarlane

Alan recently gave a lecture to U3AC on China, but this one will focus on memory. How well do we really remember our own past and how can we write a social history of ourselves from what materials survive?  Alan has been a diligent record keeper of his own long and unusual life as a historian and anthropologist at Cambridge. He is currently writing his own autobiography and has got as far as his arrival in Cambridge in 1971 at the age of 30.  This has involved him revisiting a vast trove of documents, expanding on, complementing and sometimes contradicting his own recollections.  Alan will talk about this project, with a particular focus on what this tells us about how memory works – necessarily from a personal perspective, but nevertheless with universal application to us all.

Alan Macfarlane F.B.A. Emeritus Professor of Anthropological Science, University of Cambridge (Life Fellow of King’s College) has worked in England, Nepal, and Japan – and since 1996 China, which he has visited seventeen times. He is author of  ‘Understanding the Chinese; A Personal A-Z’ (2020). (His biography to date is available as free pdf downloads – go to and look under ‘Life’.)

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Event information


23 Feb 2022


2:15 pm


Wednesday Lecture - online