News: Q&A with Daisy Dunn

Next Wednesday evening I’ll be chatting to ⁦the classicist Daisy Dunn about her wonderful new book Not Far From Brideshead: Oxford Between the Wars at Waterstones in Oxford. It's a lovely book, so I'm very much looking forward to the evening. Tickets are available here. Do come along!

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 →

The fall of the Knights Templar

Sometime around 1340 Ludolph of Sudheim, a German priest travelling around the Holy Land, encountered two elderly men, one from Burgundy, the other from Toulouse, in the mountains by the Dead Sea. They told him they were Knights Templar, taken prisoner by the Mamluks after the fall of Acre in May 1291 – the last,... Continue Reading →

The origins of El Dorado

In the last days of 1835 the explorer Robert Schomburgk stood on the shores of Lake Amucu in western central Guiana. In April, the surrounding savannah would be inundated by the rising tides of two nearby river systems creating the illusion of a great body of water; but now, in December, the waters were low.... Continue Reading →

Dante’s exile from Florence

Late-medieval Florence was riven by factional disputes based on support for or opposition to papal power. Dante Alighieri, for a brief time one of the city’s six governing officials, was part of the latter party. But after Charles of Valois entered the city in November 1301, Dante’s allies were overthrown; and on 27 January 1301,... Continue Reading →

News: Slightly Foxed

Slightly Foxed is one of my favourite literary magazines, so I am delighted to have an essay on John Masefield's The Midnight Folk in the Spring issue. I highly recommend subscribing. The link is here.

An Oxford resurrection

It was Anne Greene’s great good fortune that, after she had been hanged in the castle yard at Oxford, her body was given to the university’s physicians for dissection. In the summer of 1650, Anne, aged 22, had been seduced by Geoffrey Read, the teenage grandson of her employer Sir Thomas Read at the manor... Continue Reading →

The women’s army of Dahomey

Founded in the early 17th century, the west African kingdom of Dahomey was a bellicose, expansionist state. It is said the king’s primary duty was to ‘make Dahomey always larger’; one 18th-century king, Agaju, boasted that – whereas his grandfather had conquered two countries, his father 18, and his brother, who took the throne before... Continue Reading →

Evensong by Richard Morris

If you stand outside the former Augustinian priory of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London before evensong, twice a month, you can hear the sound of late medieval London. It is the only active church in the country to have a ring of five bells cast before the Reformation – in this... Continue Reading →

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