My first book, The pillars of priestcraft shaken (Cambridge, 1992) is available in an open access form hosted by the Newton Project here. It has just been published as a paperback by CUP (2014). I am currently completing a study of the life and thought of the later Hobbes with a focus on his contribution to the early Enlightenment after 1660. An edition of Hobbes on Religion is nearing completion for the Clarendon Press in collaboration with Mark Goldie.
Other interests include the history of scholarship; epidemics and society; eighteenth century republicanism; the history of the printed image in the eighteenth century; the nature and purpose of public history. My book on John Toland is available as an open access volume here.
Recent publications include a first edition of the works of Robert Molesworth (The Liberty Fund) and a study of Orientalist erudition in the work of Henry Stubbe (Al-Quantera) as well as contributions on Hobbes and Scripture.
In 2012 I delivered the Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Lecture on Public understanding of the past on the subject of 'Why the Enlightenment matters today'. It can be seen here
Educated at King Edward VIth Grammar School, Southampton I completed undergraduate and research degrees at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.
I have taught at Royal Holloway since 1990. In recent years I have delivered lectures and papers in many universities in the UK (Cambridge, Oxford, UEA, Southampton, IHR, Kent, Sussex, Edinburgh, York, Sheffield) and Europe (Paris, Leiden, Rotterdam, Wolfenbuttel, Ferrara, Dublin, Madrid, Potsdam, Grenada) as well as a number of North American institutions (Yale University, Princeton University, UCLA, Notre Dame, The Folger, The Williams Andrew Clark, The Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, The University of Alberta, University of Victoria). In 2003-2004 I held the John Hinckley Chair in British History at John Hopkins University, Baltimore.
I am currently President of the Historical Association.
I have a keen interest in issues of public engagement and open access to academic knowledge. I am currently a member of the Public History Committee for the Historical Association (see HA) and am keen to develop relationships with publics, communities, audiences and individuals outside of the Higher education world. A debate on the nature of public history and TV held at the German Historical Institute can be heard here.
An earlier discussion held at the IHR, which connected the debate about the utility of public history and citizenship under the title Why history matters, can be heard here.
I am currently on the Advisory Board of the JISC Historic Books Project, and the Advisory Board of The British Library Magna Carta 2015 Exhibition.
One means of broader communication is by contributing to the representation of the past in public broadcast media. I have been involved for example in making a number of historical programmes for BBC Radio 3 and 4, including features on the Glorious Revolution, the Execution of Charles I and Pistols at Dawn on the history of duelling, as well as series on the history of friendship, the enlightenment and Elizabethan and Stuart subjects.
I have also regularly contributed to the flagship programme presented by Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4, In our time on subjects such as Toleration, Miracles, Calvinism, the Trial of Charles I, the Apocalypse, divine right monarchy and John Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I have commented on a variety of historical issues for the Today Programme and Radio 5 Live as well as reviewing on Nightwaves. A recent contribution to the relationship between History and the historical novel (November 2011) can be heard here. More recent contributions to the BBC Radio 4 flagship series The Art of Monarchy can be heard here.
Other programmes explored the history of writing in books, Terry Deary's Horrible Histories and Puritan discipline in the seventeenth century.
I am also been involved in a number of television productions: a Channel 4 production of my monograph of the Great Plague of London 1665 won a Royal Television Society Award in 2001; in 2003 I presented a series on the history of Kings and Queens; a documentary on contemporary Royal Finances (Secrets of the Palace C4 2002); and numerous contributions to programmes on Isaac Newton, Timeteam, The Enlightenment, the History of Science, How Christianity Came to Britain.
My most recent television history was a contribution as advisor and on-screen to a BBC/PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered which placed his plays - Macbeth, Richard II, Hamlet and The Tempest - in historical context. Interviewing David Tennant in a Victorian cemetary about the ghost in Hamlet was a highpoint. The PBS broadcasts were accompanied by a website which included lesson plans for schools.
For a convenient description of some of these activities, see the BBC web link
I am a keen teacher of the history of ideas, and the relationsip between religion and Enlightenment. I teach courses on the History of Political Ideas from Plato to Rousseau; contributions to British History 1600-1700; and a Special Subject on Blasphemy and Irreligion in the English Enlightenment.
My current MRes Student Charlotte Young has just been awarded a TECHNE studentship for her exciting PhD project on sequestration in the English Revolution. A brief description, provided by Charlotte, will give you a good sense of the project:
Charlotte writes: My MA by Research is exploring sequestration from mid-1642 until the end of 1644. This policy allowed the confiscation of land, money and goods from delinquent and recusant families. It was a tactic primarily utilised by the Parliamentarians as a method of reducing the revenue available for Charles I to draw upon, and simultaneously finance their own military campaign, but the Royalists also launched their own sequestration policy in the early 1640s, albeit on a smaller scale. Sequestration has never been the subject of any in-depth analysis, which has led to striking misconceptions about its origins, administration and efficiency. I am seeking to chronicle the developing legislation governing the process and explore the challenges Parliament encountered during the first 18 months of its implementation across England.
My TECHNE funded PhD will be an extension of this project, and will examine the years 1645 to 1660. I am keen to examine how sequestration was modified and implemented as the Civil War reached its height, and what changes were introduced following the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the establishment of the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. I will also explore the impact of sequestration on people from a diverse range of backgrounds; from prominent Royalist gentry families whose grand houses were ransacked, to the mercantile middle classes whose livelihoods were threatened when their business premises were plundered, and poor tenants in cities and country estates who suddenly found themselves with a new landlord and difficult decisions to make regarding their political and personal allegiance. Significant emphasis will be placed on the role of women involved in fighting against sequestration, which can be studied using the petitions they submitted to Parliament and also through representations of sequestration in Royalist propaganda material.
Research output: Book/Report › Scholarly edition
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter