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Studying science and getting into Cambridge


A school trip to America
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
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The school was very enterprising. I was in the Royal Air Force section of the school core and that was quite fun. I got a flying scholarship so I learned to fly a Tiger Moth and all that was very good fun, but also one was encouraged to put in for an annual trip which the combined Royal Air Force Cadet Corps of schools did to the United States or Canada, and we always had "Time" magazine at home. My father liked to keep up with the news, so I was quite an avid reader of "Time" magazine and knew quite a lot about American politics and so on and so when we went to interview, asked what one knew about it, and I was able to tell them what I thought about John Foster Dulles, they looked mildly surprised at that, so I did get selected and then the choice was we were going to go to Canada or to the United States and I thought perhaps from reading of "Time" magazine, the United States would be the more interesting place to go to. So I was very pleased to be chosen to go there. So we had two weeks. We started off in Washington, and went - shown the White House, taken round the White House, taken into the Senate Building and there was a debate going on and there was a rather unimpressive, slightly sort of grey looking man talking rather unimpressively to me about the policies of appeasement of John Foster Dulles and I realised this was Joe McCarthy, Senator McCarthy, who was inveighing against communism and so on, very interesting to see McCarthy. This, I suppose, was back in 1954 or something like that, and then we went to Flint, Michigan, and then finished up in New York and stayed in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel so they gave us a very good - and they gave us some free time. So I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I remember the antiquity which impressed me most was a great terracotta warrior, about 10 feet tall terracotta warrior, which was on - in the rotunda on the left, which a few years later was shown to be a complete fake but it had certainly impressed me at the time, so I was able to find time to go to the theatre. We had some free time. I went to see "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" with a very good cast, Burl Ives and Barbara Bel Geddes, so that was a really good - and I think that definitely sort of stimulated my interest in things American which, which was a positive thing really.

Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn is a British archaeologist known for his work on the dispersal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and the prehistory of PIE languages. He has been Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge as well as Master of Jesus College and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Listeners: Paul Bahn

Paul Bahn studied archaeology at Cambridge where he did his doctoral thesis on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees. He is now Britain's foremost specialist on Ice Age art and on Easter Island, and led the team which discovered Britain's first Ice Age cave art at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, in 2003. He has authored and edited numerous books, including Journey Through the Ice Age, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Mammoths, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art, and, with Colin Renfrew, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice which was published in its 5th edition in 2008.

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009