Biography

I am a medievalist with broad historical interests. My research and teaching focus on the history of the British Isles and continental Europe between the reign of Charlemagne and the pontificate of Innocent III; particular interests are the actions and ambitions of early twelfth-century rulers and the ideals and fortunes of their secular, episcopal, and monastic élites. I strive to work closely with evidence: not only the evidence of written narratives and documents, but the evidence, too, of material culture and architectural fabric. Any serious engagement with such evidence requires a dialogue with those who have worked on this evidence in the past, often in the early modern era, and I have a deep interest in the works, collections, and lives of such scholars and antiquaries. Above all, I am happiest working with manuscripts, in archives, and on site visits to museums, battlefields, and churches.

My training has been eclectic. As a boy I enjoyed a work experience posting at the Egyptology department of the British Museum; my passion for all things ancient—and for this remarkable institution—continues. Summers spent in Virginia with my grandfather, Captain Frank E. McKenzie, and his friends, all veterans of the war for the Pacific, introduced me to many of the battlefields and battle narratives of the American Civil War. A subsequent pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi in the company of two inspiring Franciscans planted a lasting interest in the history of the Eternal City, in the life of ‘that lonely dreamer’, Francis of Assisi, and in the fortunes of the Italian peoples. A degree at King’s College, London, exposed me to a range of brilliant medievalist teaching (Anne Duggan, Jinty Nelson, David Carpenter—a triumvirate to match the best of them), but also allowed me to continue my study of classical history (with Hugh Bowden, Tim Cornell, and others). An MPhil. in Medieval History at the University of Cambridge, under Rosamond McKitterick, versed me in the complexities and challenges of reading early medieval narratives. A DPhil. in History at the University of Oxford—conducted over an epic time frame, much to the exasperation of my first supervisor, Rees Davies—equipped me in the study of twelfth-century Cumbria and northern Britain. Above all, my five years as a researcher on the AHRC-funded project, the Writs and Charters of William II and Henry I, introduced me to Richard Sharpe, the late Professor of Diplomatic at the University of Oxford, and a team of brilliant co-researchers. My time on the project gave me an unrivalled training in the editing and handling of medieval texts. There was no more incisive or more generous mentor than Richard Sharpe. My experience of working with him essentially taught me my trade as a medievalist—and, no less importantly, renewed my devotion to fish and chips. A five-year residence at Jesus College, Oxford, first as a British Academy postdoctoral fellow and then as a Hugh Price research fellow, gave me access to the very model of a community of learning and friendship.

View graph of relations

ID: 107809