News: The Author

I have a review of Emma Smith’s Portable Magic, an exploration of the power of books, in the latest issue of The Author, the quarterly magazine of the Society of Authors.

The Kyivan queens of medieval Europe

Ukraine has been part of European history since before the Norman Conquest. Indeed, in the middle of the 11th century, the queens of Norway, Hungary, France and Poland were all Kievan Rus’ princesses. The first three were daughters of Yaroslav, grand prince of Kyiv and Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden. The fourth was Yaroslav’s sister, Maria.... Continue Reading →

News: The Quietus

I’ve reviewed Markiyan Kamysh’s extraordinary Stalking The Atomic City – a memoir of multiple illegal forays into the exclusion zone around Chernobyl – for ⁦‪The Quietus.

News: The Critic

I have a review of Linda Kinstler's Come to This Court and Cry, an exploration of the aftermath of the Holocaust and the search for justice, in the latest issue of The Critic.

The Siege of Loyalty House by Jessie Childs

“There is nothing that doth more advance and sour a man’s misery”, the eulogist said at the funeral of Sir Marmaduke Rawdon in April 1646, “than this one thought and apprehension: that he was once happy.” Before the outbreak of the English civil war, Rawdon had been a highly successful merchant in London; his unofficial... Continue Reading →

The Great Wine Blight

The Columbian Exchange is a much discussed phenomenon, but it can have had few more surprising consequences than the near total destruction of European wine production in the 19th century. The cause was phylloxera, a microscopic yellow aphid native to the eastern coast of the United States, that feeds exclusively on the roots of grapevines.... Continue Reading →

Wayward: Just Another Life to Live by Vashti Bunyan

Pop music doesn’t go in much for redemption as a rule, but Bunyan’s life is – characteristically – resolutely atypical. She seems like Hermione, Leontes’ wife in The Winters’ Tale, turned to stone for twenty years and then returned, movingly, to life. If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re familiar with the outlines... Continue Reading →

The House of Dudley by Joanne Paul

As the nine-year-old Edward VI rode through London on the way to his coronation in Westminster Abbey in February 1547, he paused for a while to watch a man perform on a tightrope strung from the steeple of St Paul’s. He might have been advised to study the man who rode ahead of him too.... Continue Reading →

News: Not Just The Tudors

I'm delighted to have recorded another episode for Suzannah Lipscomb's brilliant podcast, Not Just the Tudors, this time on Sir Walter Ralegh and the tragic fantasy of El Dorado. It's available to listen to here. My previous episode, in which we discussed the Dissolution of the Monasteries, is available to listen to here. Not Just... Continue Reading →

The discovery of Parkinson’s Disease

At 10am on 7 October 1794 a 39-year-old physician named James Parkinson presented himself in Whitehall for interrogation by William Pitt and the Privy Council. They were investigating what became known as the Popgun Plot, an alleged attempt to assassinate George III. Parkinson, a member of the radical London Corresponding Society, knew some of those... Continue Reading →

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