At St Peter’s, I teach survey courses which cover the history of the British Isles from 300 to 1330, and a survey course on Medieval Christendom and its neighbours from 1000 to 1300; I also teach these courses to students at Merton College, with whom St Peter’s has an arrangement to share teaching provision. For the history faculty, I give lectures on the medieval history of the British Isles, and offer teaching and lectures for the Norman Conquest special subject. I realize that reading medieval history may not be a life-changing experience for everyone, but remain hopeful that it should inspire many, and confident that it will enrich all of those who do so!
My research is principally concerned with the England and Normandy in the long eleventh century, on both sides of the Channel and either side of 1066. My first book, The Earls of Mercia, explored how a powerful family based in the midlands negotiated the vicissitudes of English politics for nearly a century before succumbing to the Normans in the 1070s. I found this a fruitful way to approach many wider themes, such as the way noble men and women accumulated landed wealth and lordships to compete for power.
My current book project aims to something similar for the Normans: it traces the fortunes of a family whose members came to prominence in Normandy in the late tenth century, played a leading role in the conquest of England, acquired a vast cross-channel lordship in the process, but eventually gambled and lost everything in civil wars. For the past decade, I have been involved in a major research project, ‘The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England’, which aims to identify all the people who lived in England before 1066, including all those named in Domesday Book; and I am currently involved in a project called ‘The Conqueror’s Commissioners’, which will produce a new edition, translation and introduction to Exon Domesday – a manuscript which is of crucial importance for understanding the genesis, nature and purpose of the Conqueror’s great survey.
Domesday Book and the Transformation of English Landed Society
The Domesday Controversy: a Review and a new Interpretation
The Haskins Society Journal: studies in medieval history
1066 and Government
1066 in Perspective
Recent literature has tended to endorse a 'maximum view' of the late Anglo-Saxon government, stressing its power and sophistication before the conquest and its continuity into the early Norman period. This paper suggests that Anglo-Saxon government was in some ways too powerful for its own good, and contributed to the conquest's causation; and that although all the institutions of English government survived the conquest, most were affected by it, some profoundly. The paper concludes with a case study on the making and purposes of Domesday informed by recent work on Exon Domesday. Although the survey could not have been undertaken without some of the institutions of government bequeathed to the Normans by the English, it reveals a very different government at work, drawing on a wide range of precedents in innovative ways, driven by new priorities that a function of the tenurial transformation it records.
I believe passionately that the fruits of research should be shared with wide audiences whenever possible, and have been fortunate to secure opportunities to write and present television documentaries for the BBC 2 (on Domesday Book) and BBC 4 (on Medieval Children), and to make contributions to radio programmes including BBC Radio 3 (The Essay) and Radio 4 (In Our Time).