Culture & History


I write regularly about cultural issues in the British press, including drawing on my work as a historian to provide context for contemporary debate.

I can be irrepressible when talking history: I recently enjoyed explaining the relative sexual virtues of Elizabeth I on Channel 5’s ‘Last Days of Mary Queen of Scots’, and leading a historians’ live-tweet of historical context for the BBC’s Wolf Hall. You’ll also find some of my book reviews, lighter pieces and broader arts writing on this page.



The Casey Review: Integration of UK immigrants is a two-way process

Posted on Dec 9, 2016 | 0 comments

an edited version of this column appeared in the Financial Times, 9 December 2016. In January this year, the then British prime minister, David Cameron, unveiled a fund for teaching English to immigrants, targeted at Muslim women. The left erupted. Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader, called it...

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The future of the monarchy has potential to be our next crisis

Posted on Nov 25, 2016 | 0 comments

an edited version of this column appeared in the Financial Times, 25 November 2016 It is November 2018. President Trump arrives for a state dinner at Buckingham Palace, his arm around the de facto first lady, Ivanka. An official photograph from the White Drawing Room is flashed around the world: the...

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The Wipers Times at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Posted on Sep 28, 2016 | 0 comments

reviewed for The Times, 28 September 2016 Woe betide the young hack who falls foul of Private Eye. Ian Hislop, the satirical magazine’s quick-spirited editor, has perhaps more of a public profile, but the comedy writer Nick Newman, with whom Hislop has been letting off literary whoopee cushions since...

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Theresa May is more of a young Victoria than Queen Elizabeth I

Posted on Sep 4, 2016 | 0 comments

written for The Telegraph, 30 August 2016 Ever since Theresa May arrived in Downing Street, friends and enemies have sought to find another woman to whom we can compare her – and each time come up with Margaret Thatcher. Now the PM has caused a stir by citing Elizabeth I as a role model in a carefully...

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Don’t kick sponsors such as BP. They make art accessible

Posted on Aug 2, 2016 | 0 comments

‘Thunderer’ column written for The Times, 2nd August 2016 A post-grad on a tight budget recently solicited tips for his first trip to Paris. I made a few suggestions, including the Louvre. On his return I asked how he’d enjoyed it. Ah. There was a problem. He and his friends turned up on the...

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I’d rather read Potter than Proust — confessions of a literary academic

Posted on Jun 10, 2016 | 0 comments

written for The Times, 10th June 2016 In the summer of 1997, I started secondary school and so did Harry Potter. Potter obsessives will tell you that Harry James Potter was born on July 31, 1980, orphaned on Hallowe’en 1981, and arrived at Hogwarts School in the late summer of 1991 (certainly, the...

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