The road to my research interests
I grew up with history. My father - Jacob Appel - was a historian (and high school principal). My sister - Charlotte Appel - is a historian (and associate professor at Aarhus University). Both my great-great-grandfather (Ludvig Schrøder) and great-grandfather (Jacob Appel) were folk-high school principals in Askov. I went to Bording's Grundtvigian primary school in the 1970s, where we had two classes each week of "Nordic History" and two classes of "Bible and World History"! I remember we once played "The Punic Wars" in the break between classes.
I started studying History at the University of Copenhagen in 1982, where my teacher Alex Wittendorff's studies in Reformation history, combining Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony with history of mentalities were my main source of inspiration. It lead to a masters thesis on peasant unrest in Denmark 1513-36. In order to explore this mix of hegemony and history of mentalities further, I turned my interest to state formation in the 17th century, where new types of source material as court records, parish registers, enlistment of soldiers etc. made it possible to discuss theoretical concepts like state formation from a micro-historical perspective - leading to my doctoral degree with a dissertation on social mechanisms and power relations in a Danish peasant communities in the seventeenth century.
In 1996, the dissertation led me to the Royal Arsenal Museum, which wanted to put military history into a broader perspective. And my research moved on to the development of military technology and its social and cultural historical significance. Among other things. I made - inspired by John Ellis: The Social History of the Machine Gun - the exhibition "The Cultural History of the Machine Gun".
Gradually. my focus shifted to the exhibition medium (I have also written several articles about it), and in 2009 I changed employment from senior researcher at The Roayl Arsenla Museum to Head of Education in the Danish Museums Association (ODM).
But then the mid-term crisis hit when I turned 49 in 2012! Or maybe I had moved a little too far away from the study of history. Anyway, I was not sure how to spend the rest of my working life. Just at the right moment, I received an email from one of my very best teachers in ODM, the most inspirational Emily Johnsson from Manchester. "I have the perfect thing for you!". A two-day seminar on football museums in Manchester! I
went - and felt that I got a new lease of life. From going to the pub with the three museum curators from Manchester United's museum, Mark, Maggie and Kate. From listening to Leicester City club historian John Hutchinson, who had taken the step from school teacher to club historian. And the icing on the cake was Helen O'Keogh from Leeds United's museum, who in the middle of her presentation stopped and with a smile all over her face said "imagine, I'm going down to the ground every day to go to work!"
On the flight back home, I set myself three targets. Within a year, I was to have a blog up and running about football museums and stadiums; I was to be an active participant in the 150th anniversary conference of the English Football Association the following year; and I was to gain working experience in a football museum. All three targets were achieved. My 50th anniversary present to myself was a month's leave from the museums association in which I worked at the Manchester United Museum. I was fortunate that one of England's greatest museum experts, Bernadette Lynch, had a room for rent in her house in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And every single day I walked to Old Trafford to absorb myself into the social history of Manchester United players from the 1940s to the 1970s, I got the kick of joy that Helen O'Keogh had been talking about. And I watched 17 football matches in one month and thus started a new project - to visit all English (and eventually also Scottish) league grounds. And I ended my stay watching Alex Ferguson win the last of his 13 championship titles with Manchester United.
As an added bonus, I joined Manchester Metropolitan University's Sports and Leisure History Network under Professor Dave Day - with annual colloquiums in Crewe (until Brexit). This inspired me to take up two new areas of research - the history of the entertainment industry and a new concept of the body in fin-de-siecle urban culture; and the cultural history of British football culture from 1885 to today.
Now, I am working full time as a freelance researcher, enabling me to focus and go into depth with my research in these two areas. It may seem to some people that there is no apparent connection between peasant communities, machine guns, the "wicked Sisters Barrison" of the fin-de-siecle variety stage to Archibald Leitch's football grounds around Great Britain. But to me it has been a natural progression - with a read thread running through it all, as you can see from the photos in the margin! And maybe, you can also discern the thread in my curriculum vitae here.
The Red Thread
1979. Lou Macari and me in Vedbæk
1983. Dale and me on our way to a match.
1983. Bryan Robson signs autographs for Dale and me. The picture is brought the following year in Bryan Robson's column in 'Shoot!'
2005. With Thomas for his first game, just before the Glazers' purchase of the club. Angelo is standing outside his souvenir shop, next to Lou Macari's fish 'n chip shop, where I have been having prematch meals since the 1980's
2017. Lou Macari (with the picture from 1979), Dale, Thomas and me. Reunion after 33 years, when Dale on facebook has seen the picture of me and Macari and contacted me.
2017. And to complete the reunion, Bryan Robson also shows up.