Mary, Countess of Pembroke: poetry, patronage and power

This is, more or less, the text of the talk I gave earlier this month at the Wilton History Festival. Mary, Countess of Pembroke, and her sons William and Philip, were the most influential patrons of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era. Let’s begin with a story to illustrate that assertion. For the moment, we will … Continue reading Mary, Countess of Pembroke: poetry, patronage and power

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Of God and Jonson: theatre history, new things and non-events

I was fortunate to be able to attend some of the superb Before Shakespeare conference at Roehampton last week. I came away with a range of thoughts and ideas, some of which I hope to pursue in one form or another. Perhaps the thing that struck me most, however, was Bill Ingram’s opening talk. Ingram … Continue reading Of God and Jonson: theatre history, new things and non-events

Wilton History Festival: the Countess of Pembroke and her circle

Just a brief post to say I will be speaking at Wilton History Festival on 17 September about the literary circle around Mary Sidney and the power of patronage. For those who don't know, Mary Sidney was the younger sister Philip Sidney and is the Countess of Pembroke for whom he wrote the Arcadia. However, … Continue reading Wilton History Festival: the Countess of Pembroke and her circle

Review: Emigrants by James Evans

Otto von Bismarck was once asked to identify the pre-eminent fact in modern world history. That America spoke English, he replied. In Emigrants, James Evans attempts to explain how and why that happened. For much of the 17th century, England was something of a failed state. In mid-century it collapsed into a brutal and protracted … Continue reading Review: Emigrants by James Evans

Review: Shakespeare in London by Hannah Crawforth, Sarah Dustagheer and Jennifer Young

This review first appeared in the August 2015 issue of History Today. The world might be forgiven for rolling its eyes at the prospect of another book on Shakespeare. Does Shakespeare in London, the latest addition to the Bloomsbury Arden list,  have anything new to say? The answer is a confident yes. Shakespeare in London … Continue reading Review: Shakespeare in London by Hannah Crawforth, Sarah Dustagheer and Jennifer Young

Review: The Black Prince of Florence by Catherine Fletcher

This review first appeared in the Financial Times on April 29, 2016 Alessandro de’ Medici reigned from 1532 to 1537 as the first duke of one of Italy’s greatest city-states. Yet just as he lived in obscurity until his teens in the late 1520s, he has largely been returned to that obscurity by historians ever … Continue reading Review: The Black Prince of Florence by Catherine Fletcher

Country Life, Shakespeare and midsummer madness

Like most people, I suspect, I was surprised by the news that someone had discovered a contemporary portrait of Shakespeare. And bemused, too, that they would chose to reveal the fact in Country Life. My heart sank, though, when I saw that the case relied on ciphers. I am sure there are carefree souls for … Continue reading Country Life, Shakespeare and midsummer madness