I am Research & Communications Officer at the RHS and previously lectured in history at the University of Southampton. My specialist areas of research are modern Jewish history and culture and food history. My thesis examined Jewish identity and food in postwar Britain and I am currently working on a biography of the 20th century Anglo-Jewish cookery writer, Florence Greenberg.
Originally a graduate and postgraduate at the University of Birmingham (1973-1980), I am currently a senior research fellow at the History of Parliament, working on the Commons 1640-1660 section, having joined it in 2006. Previously I was a research editor for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 17th century section (1998-2006) and research development officer for the History Faculty, University of Oxford (2004-2006). Prior to that (1979-1997) I held a variety of part-time and occasional teaching appointments, tutoring courses in history c.1400-c.1750 at the universities of Oxford, Warwick and Birmingham, and the Open University.
My PhD thesis traced the lifestyle and attitudes of a 17th century Warwickshire gentry family, and as a consequence of that I published work on family relationships, on education and on the mindset of a ‘godly magistrate’ as well as an RHS volume. At DNB, of which I am still associate research editor for the 17th century, I wrote entries on clergy, writers, diplomats and immigrants, and developed interests in civil war Oxford. At HoP I have worked on Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Surrey MPs, including Speaker William Lenthall, regicide Edmund Ludlowe and lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke. Alongside this, I have long-standing interests in the religious and cultural history of the Pays de Vaud, Switzerland, in Anglo-Swiss links and in Huguenots.
I am honorary secretary of the Oxford branch of the Historical Association and am currently on the council of the Huguenot Society.
I work on post-Famine Irish, socio-economic, cultural and health histories. I have published widely on the history of Irish poverty and associated social problems: institutionalization, criminality, emigration (to New Zealand and America), unknown and unnamed infant death, public health and TB in Modern Ireland.
My current Irish Research Council-Funded interdisciplinary project uses linked data technologies to problematise historic maternal and infant mortality data for Dublin. I am interested in how citizens interact with power in all its manifestations. My personal research examines the ways in which Irish female immigrants medicalise in New York and Boston, 1860-1914.
My early research experience was in archives in Paris, Rome, Madrid, Burgo de Osma (Central Spain), and London, looking for manuscripts that contained versions of the Historia Ierosolimitana by Baldric of Bourgueil – a Latin prose narrative of the First Crusade. As part of an AHRC- funded research project, that work resulted in a new edition of this primary source and an expansion of the manuscript tradition for it, from a meagre seven surviving medieval books to an abundant twenty four. This has significantly raised the profile of Baldric of Bourgueil’s Historia Ierosolimitana.
Alongside Dr Sue Edgington, i am currently working on a translation into English of the Historia – the first ever into a modern language – making this newly important text much more accessible to an international audience.
I am also writing a book about ‘Risk, Reward and Trust in the Middle Ages’ – this examines stories of risky ventures in the Middle Ages and the understanding that the narrators of those ventures had of how men – usually men – weighed up the risks they were taking, assessed the rewards that would accrue from success and how they were able to place their trust in a leader. The study encompasses narratives concerning the crusades, the career of El Cid, the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England and the lives of men such as Robert Guiscard and William the Marshal. I am especially interested in the interaction of risk (physical, monetary and spiritual) and Christian faith.