My work focuses on the history of Britain and its American colonies in the period 1500-1700. Within that frame my studies are wide-ranging, involving forms of inquiry that are often thought of us as separate sub-disciplines – religious history, local history, gender history, political and administrative history. These, I think, are symbiotically related. If I had to provide a simple definition of my research interests, I would say I am a legal historian.
All my work has been concerned with the relationships, often mediated through disparate cultural assumptions, particularly divergent readings of law, between groups of people in dialogue. So I have done much work on relations between the centre (Westminster; Whitehall) and the localities, examining how central directives were interpreted, employed, appropriated, or avoided by local power brokers, ostensibly acting as the agents of the central government – so my work on JPs in early modern England and on the Civil War county committees. I have also studies the interactions between different social groups, particularly in my works on the drainage disputes in the Fenland. My interest in witchcraft involves both these two themes, but also entails the study of a third fascinating dialogue: between men and women.
The Case of Joan Peterson
The Trial and Execution of Charles I
Charles I: A case of Mistaken Identity
Centre and Locality in Civil War England
Witchcraft and Possession at the Accession of James I