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

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Me and Debbie McGee – or, Life and Death in West Ruislip

I know what you’re thinking. What does Debbie McGee, diminutive relict of the late pint-sized prestidigitator Paul Daniels, have to do with anything? And, more specifically, what does she have to do with me? Just a few weeks ago, I’d have wondered the same thing. And then she turned up at the auction of my … Continue reading Me and Debbie McGee – or, Life and Death in West Ruislip

Re-mapping the world: grief and its aftermath

I want to think of it like this: that learning to live with death is the last gift our parents have for us. When we were spring, they were already summer. Now their year is over we can see the full extent of life's horizon before us for the first time. We have a chance … Continue reading Re-mapping the world: grief and its aftermath

The library of lost conversation

My father died in May, seven years after my mother. We are slowly emptying the house the two of them lived in together since the autumn of 1966, a couple of months after I was born. The house contains my childhood, of course, and those of my older brother and sisters – but mostly now … Continue reading The library of lost conversation

Between fact and fiction

This article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of History Today. What does it mean to write history today? What claims can historians make about their work? These are just two of the questions that sprang to mind after listening to Niall Ferguson tussle with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley on Radio 4’s Start … Continue reading Between fact and fiction

Young academics: the great betrayal

This piece first appeared in the September 2015 issue of History Today. I discussed the issues it raised with Catherine Fletcher in a related podcast which can be heard here. Catherine wrote a THE blog in response to my article and the disagreements it aroused, which can be read here. Supporters of the status quo … Continue reading Young academics: the great betrayal

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