Bath research into JK Rowling family contributes to BBC programme

Research by one of our academics into the family history of JK Rowling has contributed to the hit BBC programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Dr Hanna Diamond’s research culminated in her filming a segment in Paris with the acclaimed author.  

Dr Diamond, of the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, was first asked by BBC producers to contextualise a number of letters sent by Rowling’s great-grandfather in France to his children living back home in England. This however, was only the beginning, as she soon found herself in Paris on a quest for further information.

In a quirk of the filming process Dr Diamond wasn’t actually told the identity of the celebrity until a week before filming, making their meeting an unexpected but pleasing turn of events.  

Having studied a number of personal accounts of the Second World War previously, Dr Diamond was ideally placed to take on the investigation and found the case of JK Rowling’s great grandfather of particular interest.

Dr Diamond said: “His letters went right through to 1949, so they not only gave a fantastic insight into the struggles of daily life French people faced during the war but also the turmoil of the Liberation and the post-war period.”

Although the exact findings of Dr Diamond’s research and the filming in Paris did not make it to the final cut of the programme (which will be aired on BBC One on Wednesday 17 August at 9pm) her segment will be released on the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ website soon afterwards. She did allude to the nature of the outcome of her involvement, saying: “some aspects were quite sad.”

Asked what she had gained from the experience, Dr Diamond said: “One of the things the research reinforced for me was how hard life during this period was, particularly if you were older and in ill-health.”

Interestingly, the archives that she assessed and commented on for the show gave an insight into some of her current research into people’s experience during the post war period and in particular the impact of the presence of German prisoners of war in France.

Dr Diamond said: “I found the research for the show to be enriching and it was great to see my work used in such a positive way, enhancing public education about a particular period in history.

“I found the whole show really exciting and interesting to be involved with, it was a great privilege and very different from what I do on a day-to-day basis.  I enjoyed a trip to Paris and of course met one of the most famous women in the world.”

In terms of future projects, Dr Diamond has begun to look at the possibility of doing more television, possibly focusing on the 70-year memorial of the Second World War and the legacy of the French Resistance.

She said: “The public do have an insatiable appetite for all things related to the Second World War, and due to my work I can offer unique insights into how people experienced those events in France.”

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