In 1993, Martin reflected on his university years in the Magdalen College Record:
I was up at Magdalen from 1957 to 1960. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, who went into the diplomatic service, journalism, and the law, I stayed on at Oxford for two more years as a research scholar at St Antony’s, hoping to become a Sovietologist.
I then went to Merton as a Junior Research Fellow, with a growing interest in turn-of-the- century Indian history. The theme of my new researches, which centered upon famine policy and land –ownership, was the constructive and paternalistic aspect of British rule, which had impressed me during many sessions in the India Office archive, then housed in a particularly dingy basement in Whitehall. Unfortunately for my burgeoning researches, my Merton appointment came just as I received a letter from Churchill’s son Randolph, asking me to do historical research-for him, as he embarked on a four-volume biography of his father.
My Magdalen tutors are often in my mind. Karl Leyser introduced me to what became my hobby: the movement down the ages of peoples throughout the world, which only maps and arrows and a sense of the mountain passes (which he conveyed in lively manner) can portray. Bruce Macfarlane forced me to be accurate, to the point of pedantry, and thus aroused in me a love of obscure detail and little-known fact (as well as introducing me to Memling). John Stoye taught me that there is no such thing as a dull document, however tedious and remote it might seem at first glance. Alan Taylor, by telling me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing more to be learned about the inter- war years, propelled me forward into them, and thus led directly (by his perhaps deliberate – perversity) to my first book, published thirty years ago this year, on the pre-war appeasers.
Alan also warned me, in our final tutorial (he was staring at his stuffed owl as he spoke) that if I chose history as my profession, I would make the occasional discovery, but would face in the main long days and weeks and even months when nothing interesting turned up. So far I do not think a singe day has passed, certainly never a week, when a nugget of historical evidence has not emerged that caused me pleasure in finding it, and hopefully, in due course, equal pleasure in passing it on to my readers.