About

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, came out in March 2020: the paperback is coming in April 2021. 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.

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.

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