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! I’ve written about the diplomacy behind Henry VIII’s first divorce, worked as an adviser to the set team on Wolf Hall and broadcast widely on Italian Renaissance history. My book The Black Prince of Florence, published 2016, was a biography of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici. My new book on sixteenth-century Italy, The Beauty and the Terror, will be out in March 2020. Ongoing projects include a study of early firearms and research on the crew of the Mary Rose.
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.