I’m a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe – the world of the Tudors, Medici and Borgias – though I’m not exclusively interested in the glitzy people at the top! My latest book, The Beauty and the Terror, on sixteenth-century Italy, is now available in paperback. My book The Black Prince of Florence was a biography of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, while Our Man in Rome/The Divorce of Henry VIII was about the nefarious diplomacy behind the famous marital split. I worked as an adviser to the set team on Wolf Hall and now broadcast widely on Italian Renaissance history.
I’m currently writing a book on travel to Rome across two millennia (all being well, this will be out in 2024), as well as doing academic research on the early history of firearms.
Although I’m now a historian, I began my career studying – then working in – politics and the media. I graduated with a first-class degree in Politics and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool in 1996 and was elected to the National Union of Students Executive Committee the same year. I convened the NUS Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Campaign from 1996-98. From 1999 I worked for the BBC Political Unit, including as a researcher and TV producer.
In 2004 I returned to full-time academic life to study for a PhD in History, which I completed in 2008 at Royal Holloway, University of London. My thesis was supervised by Professor Sandra Cavallo and entitled ‘Renaissance diplomacy in practice: the case of Gregorio Casali, England’s ambassador to the papal court, 1525-33’.
I’ve been a Scouloudi Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research (2007-08), Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome (2009-10) and Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute (2010-11). I’ve lectured at Durham University, the University of Sheffield, and Swansea University. In January 2020 I became Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The picture of me on this website is copyright Sheffield Cathedral.