Expertise and Current Research Activity
2010 saw the publication of a history of the British Isles from the Romans to the present, A World by Itself, which I planned, edited, and partly wrote; it is a monograph, not a textbook, that provides, in a single-volume, an intellectually serious reinterpretation of the whole of that country’s history, with implications for our understanding of the Founding of the United States. Last year I published an article on the Enlightenment in the proceedings of a conference at the Sorbonne, a preview for my book on that subject. This will be the first ever book on the Enlightenment (a claim that I shall justify in a work that will wholly recast our understanding of that alleged episode). I am also concerned to dismantle secularization theory as embodied in the sociology of religion, and published an article to that end in the Historical Journal in 2012; this has led to a conference in Oxford in January 2013. Also in 2012 two volumes of essays on Samuel Johnson appeared, organized and partly written by myself; they provide an reinterpretation that dismantles the ‘usable Johnson’ devised by recent literary scholars. In 2012 I finished a survey of British history c. 1660-1832, a book which will finally put to rest the idea that the period was the crucible of modernity; it is part of a series of six volumes, edited by myself, that is due for publication in 2014. In 2013 I shall continue my participation in a research project on ‘the British diaspora’, and finish a monograph reassessing the political and social thought of Thomas Paine, commonly misunderstood as a Founding Father of the United States. A common feature of my work is to replace the characteristic analyses of late modernity, which depended on secular reifications, with an analysis that allows us to appreciate the religious conflicts of our own world for what they are.
D.Phil, Oxford University
Ph.D., Cambridge University: Peterhouse
M.A., Cambridge University: Corpus Christi College
B.A., Cambridge University: Downing College
British history since c.1660, especially in the territory bounded by religion, political thought, politics, law, and literary culture; religion in imperial, transatlantic and colonial American history, including the American Revolution; the Enlightenment and its religious premises; the religious dimension of the French Revolution; European and transatlantic historiography and geopolitics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.