Gracchi was born in Streatham, London. He spent three years in Oxford doing an undergraduate degree and four years in Cambridge doing a PhD. His PhD thesis was on intellectual history in the 17th century and strayed into politics and theology as well. He now works in London and is in the process of writing a review article for The Historical Journal on the English Civil War, and several other historical pieces. Gracchi blogs at Westminster Wisdom.
Why do you blog? > To maintain a diary of what I've read and how I've responded to it. To force myself to continue to engage critically and intellectually with the world and to see what others make of my ideas.
What has been your best blogging experience? > A producer of a film I reviewed commented on the film review and said that it captured what he was trying to do.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write about what interests you; the biggest risk to any blog is that it lapses because people run out of interest in it. Keep a sense of perspective - nothing on the internet matters too much.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Patrick Wormald, who taught me briefly at Oxford and was one of the best teachers I have ever had; Isaiah Berlin, largely because of the tolerance implicit in his political thinking; Edward Gibbon, because of the scope and imagination of his history.
What are you reading at the moment? > I've just finished God's Executioner by Micheál Ó Siochrú, a reasonable study of Cromwell in Ireland, and I'm beginning a book on poetry in the Cromwellian Protectorate by Howard Holberton, which is very good. On my blog I'm also working through Livy's History of Rome and Tacitus's biography of Agricola.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Jorge Luis Borges for his intellectual curiosity and vast learning, and George Orwell, obviously.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Anna Karenina.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Shield of Achilles' by Auden - its images are very powerful.
What is your favourite movie? > Wild Strawberries or Winter Light by Ingmar Bergman, The Trial of Joan of Arc by Robert Bresson. Those are today's choices at least.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Doubt: the likelihood is that no one is completely right about anything; it is worth remembering that it is more than likely you are making a mistake when you say something.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. I studied it at university and it made me think about politics in a systematic way as opposed to within the prisms of modern preoccupations.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Isaiah Berlin: 'The need to choose, to sacrifice some ultimate values to others, turns out to be a permanent characteristic of the human predicament.'
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > To remember that nothing is as important as it might seem.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The ability to forgive and be patient with others.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Violence, self-righteousness and lack of charity.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > I hope I would lie to protect someone from an unjust act by an authority; I fear I would not.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Against glamour and obfuscation - I'm a puritan without religion and hence detest celebrity, modern art and postmodernism.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Shopping for anything apart from DVDs or books.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Too much.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Good interesting conversation, good food, wine and lots of museums, books and monuments for the daytime - not to mention countryside.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, watching movies, seeing friends.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to do mathematics and understand science.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Michael Vaughan for his captaincy of England and batting, Paul Scholes for his ability to be a good footballer and not give an interview.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Leeds United, an inherited trait.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > My father to come back from the dead!
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > John Selden, the lawyer, philosopher, historian and MP, Edward Gibbon and Walter Ullmann (a great medieval historian).
What animal would you most like to be? > An elephant - for a historian, never forgetting would be useful.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]