Teachers who inspired me as an undergraduate, part 4: Mark Goldie

This is my fourth and final post about teachers who inspired me as an undergraduate.

Mark Goldie taught me just once, for a supervision on Hobbes, but had a lasting impact – not because he inspired me to study Hobbes (my love for Hobbes came later) but because of how he taught me. If I remember rightly, the supervision itself lasted 90 minutes rather than an hour, and Goldie pushed me hard on my understanding of Hobbes. But what had most effect on me was his astonishingly detailed and constructively critical comments on my essay. He read the essay with great care, and then wrote pencil numbers in the margins and typed out a comment for each number.

Mark Goldie, with the first six volumes of his feedback to students

Mark Goldie, with the first six volumes of his feedback to students.

This was the only time in four years of my undergraduate education that anyone commented in detail both on the substance of my argument and also on how I wrote the essay itself. I clearly took Goldie’s comments seriously: my notes contain responses in four different pens, implying that I probably read through his comments four times.

You can see Goldie’s feedback below. Some comments are very blunt, and he has since told me that he wouldn’t have done this unless he thought I would respond appropriately. And of course, the comments were also explained in the one-on-one supervision process.











When I started teaching, I used Goldie’s approach for feedback. Alas, I have sometimes given blunter feedback, and have not been as sensitive as Goldie to how different students would respond. I’m still learning about teaching!

Goldie didn’t entirely stop my quirky, bizarre essays: that got kicked out of me in Oxford by Adam Swift, Mark Philp, Clive Payne and Anthony Heath (the last of whom told me to remove all adjectives from my writing!). But Goldie started me on the right track. My undergraduate teaching wasn’t nearly as good as what our students get at KCL – Cambridge basically taught me to teach myself, which is not a bad education I suppose – but Goldie was a shining exception to the norm. Thank you Mark Goldie!

You can read the other three posts in this series here (Stefan Collini), here (Stuart Corbridge) and here (Quentin Skinner).

Leave a comment


  1. Maria Sciara

     /  September 13, 2013

    Ha ha ha ha! This brings back wonderful memories from QM! Keep up the interesting blog – makes a welcome break reading this. Maria

    • Funnily enough, I seem to remember being told off by someone at QM for giving overly brusque feedback …. 😉

      Good to hear from you, anyway, and I hope everything is going well with you!

  2. I’m curious to read the essay.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: