Who in the midst of a crisis of the press sector could think of founding a magazine on history? Oliver Webb-Carter, a former J.P. Morgan executive who, after 18 years in the City of London, decided to return to his roots.
It was not for nothing that he had graduated in Ancient History and Archaeology at Warwick University and then obtained a master's degree in information technology. In the Anglo-Saxon world, it is common to study a degree and then go into a different profession. Webb-Carter worked for the investment bank between February 2002 and October 2020.
But the bug of history won out in the end and he gave it all up to found Aspects of History, an English language magazine specialising in the popularisation of history, which came out in December 2021. The magazine is bimonthly and is available in hard copy, in pdf or on Amazon in kindle version.
In fact, a few years ago he travelled to the Basque Country where he photographed himself next to the statue of George L. Sterr (1909-1944), the British journalist who uncovered the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. He died a few years later in Burma, during World War II, in a traffic accident.
In an email conversation, I asked the editor: "Isn't it crazy to start a history magazine in the middle of a crisis in the press sector?
"It probably is -Most magazines close after 3 issues, and we're still here on Issue 8 (next month), with planning for issues 9 (in April) and 10 (in June) underway".
"Most businesses close after a year and we are still here after having our first anniversary last month; yes, we launched during Covid, and we are going strong. I will say that our prices are very competitive," he adds.
"We offer the annual subscription to the magazine (6 issues) for just £9.99/$9.99, and our content on our website, podcast and YouTube, all for free. With all that available for little money, we seem to have found an audience for those who are interested in history, but want to keep an eye on their wallet," he explains.
Surely the key is that it is not just a magazine but a platform for disseminating the work of historians, even young ones. "In addition to our magazine, our website contains hundreds of articles, interviews, book reviews and short stories, all available free of charge".
So far, major historians such as Max Hastings, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Paul Preston, Ben Macintyre, Margaret MacMillan and Helen Fry, among others, have already written on its pages.
They also have a book club, the aforementioned YouTube channel and a podcast. "We also hold social events with our authors to promote their work. "At heart, we are more than just a magazine, we are an internet community!
Of course, he's not alone. The team is made up of fellow story nuts Nick Kevern on design; Luke Rogers heading up the website, Tara Flynn as production assistant and Leah Blundell on social media and advisory board: Saul David, Richard Foreman, Roger Moorhouse and Antonia Senior.
In the last issue they boasted. "We have managed to do it in one year and we hope to be stronger in the future," they said. The truth is that so far they have published reports or interviewed great historians such as the Polish Adam Zamoyski's book "Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow" (2004), of which, inexplicably, there is still no translation into Spanish (Zamoyski consulted Russian, Polish, German and French documentation). Or Andrew Roberts, Churchill's great biographer, who has just published a new book on George III (1760-1800), the English monarch during which the United States gained its independence.
Also Dr. Helen Fry, a specialist in the British intelligence services, with her latest book on the "M19. A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two" or Saul David with his "Crucible of Hell: The Heroism and Tragedy of Okinawa, 1945" on the last great battle in the Pacific.
The first issue, in December 2020, already included interviews with Adrian Goldsworthy, today's leading expert on the fall of the Roman Empire, on his "Philip of Macedon" and in the second issue it was the turn of Simon Sebag Montefiore, another of the greats, with his "Great Speeches of History" and Frank McDonough on Nazi-Soviet relations.
"Our magazine," concludes Oliver Webb-Carter, "has a book review linked to each article and interview, so if the reader is interested in a topic, they can read the piece and then the book review, and if they like it, as you can see, they can buy the book. Take advantage of the opportunity.