An Oxford historian's book has been returned eight years overdue

Pesky Librarians (Flickr Creative Commons)

Historian's book returned to library eight years late

Matt Pickles

A library copy of a book written by Oxford University historian Dr Roderick Bailey has been returned eight years overdue – and 4,000 miles from where it was borrowed.

A copy of Dr Roderick Bailey’s ‘The Wildest Province: SOE In the Land of the Eagle’, was lent out by Dudley Library in the West Midlands in 2009, and was recently returned to the Boone County Public Library in Burlington, Kentucky.

Luckily for the reader, Dudley Library caps fines at £4.

Dr Bailey, who is Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Oxford University, is happy to speculate about why the reader held onto his book for so long.

‘The book was based on my PhD research (which I did at Edinburgh University) although it took me several years to turn my thesis into something readable,’ he says. ‘At least, I think it was readable.

‘Hopefully this story doesn't suggest that it takes eight years for readers to fight their way through it. Or perhaps, in this case, they so loved the book that they couldn't bring themselves to part with it? I prefer that explanation, although I'm aware that it doesn't really explain its reappearance in Kentucky.’

Dr Bailey has continued to specialise in the study of unconventional warfare and the Second World War in Europe. His last book, published in 2014, was 'Target Italy: The Secret War on Mussolini' (Faber & Faber) which was about Britain's clandestine war on Fascist Italy.

He has also completed a three-year, Wellcome Trust-funded study of the wartime work of professional psychologists and psychiatrists engaged by Britain's Special Operations Executive.

He looked into how they assessed and selected prospective personnel for hazardous, high-risk, high-strain operations in enemy territory, and to do what they could to help those who came home with psychological problems.