What was New in 2009?

21 December 2009

Video interview at Appledore festival 2009, on Youtube

At Appledore in the autumn a short interview was filmed. I waffle a bit (which is not unusual), and smile a bit (which is more unusual).

20 December 2009

My review of The Celtic Revolution in The Guardian

Simon Young is a highly qualified historian who writes well and understands that scholarship has to have a purpose - it does not exist for its own sake. I enjoyed his The Celtic Revolution.

27 November 2009

Christina Hardyment's review of 1415 in the The Independent

Another pleasing review - 'This is the most illuminating exploration of the reality of 15th-century life that I have ever read.'

20 November 2009

Dominic Sandbrook's review of 1415 in the Daily Telegraph

Dominic Sandbrook's review in today's Daily Telegraph is very pleasing. He describes it as 'an impressively rigorous day-by-day narrative recording everything the king said, wrote and did during the calendar year.' And he concludes that my book: 'is sometimes heavy going but it is worth it, for more than any other historian he gives us a genuinely three-dimensional portrait of a man who was of his times but came to transcend them. . Best of all he wrote the line that I have put on my homepage: that I have 'virtually singlehandedly put medieval history back into the hands of ordinary readers, combining scrupulous research with a wonderfully iconoclastic approach to storytelling.'

19 November 2009

History Today

The December issue issue of the magazine contains a short piece about my favourite historical moments of 2009 and my review of Dan Jones's Summer of Blood.

On a completely separate matter, my USA publishers, Simon & Schuster, have made available online the Intro and the first chapter of their forthcoming edition of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. Publication date in the USA is 29 December.

31 October 2009

Time Traveller's Guide no. 1 in today's Daily Telegraph!

I've always had a slightly cynical view of publishers calling books 'bestsellers' when they aren't, or when they sell just a few thousand copies, and I was a little concerned when my own publishers started referring to me as 'the author of the bestselling Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England'. After all, BEST selling means it sold the best number in its category, or so it seems to me. Well, the paperback of my book is no. 1 in this week's Daily Telegraph paperback non-fiction chart. Last week it was no. 3. In truth it does not amount to a huge number of sales, and that chart is based on Waterstones data alone - according to Nielsen Bookscan, it is no. 13 nationally. But never mind, Time Traveller's has been no. 1 in something, so it's a genuine 'bestseller'. Not many medieval social history books with more than four hundred endnotes reach any chart, so it is very pleasing.

23 October 2009

Podcast available for 1415

The Blackwells Bookshop website has a link to a podcast about my new book, recorded by George Miller of podularity.com.

20 October 2009

Progress with Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

The paperback of TTGME is doing well. I hear that I am no. 34 in the non-fiction chart, and was no. 35 last week. And now no. 27 in the WHSmith chart. As my previous best showing was Perfect King, which reached no. 49 in the hardback non-fiction chart one week in April 2006, I'm quite pleased. I think I'll go and have a look at my impressive collection of publishers' rejection slips (100+ of them, garnered in my twenties), to remind me how long it's taken. Alternatively I could just get on with the essay I'm currently writing, which is methodologically and intellectually very challenging and which will certainly cause any prospective purchaser to go pale.

9 October 2009

Signings, podcast etc

Spent yesterday in London signing copies of 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory at Hatchards in Piccadilly and Blackwells in Charing Cross Road. So if you want a signed copy - those are the places to go. Also, BBC Radio Four has made available a listen-again version of the edition of Excess Baggage, which was broadcast on 3 October.

29 September 2009

'Henry V: cruel king'

My view of Henry V, largely based on my new book, 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory, appears as the cover story in the October BBC History Magazine, which goes on sale today.

27 September 2009

Review of Time Traveller's Guide

Nice to see this in the Sunday Telegraph: 'Addressing the reader directly, his aim, triumphantly achieved, is to engage our sympathies with people whose similarities to us are as fascinating as their differences.'

25 September 2009

First review of 1415

It's a 'sparkling revisonist study' according to Christopher Silvester, writing in today's Daily Express.

20 September 2009

'What Hundred Years War?'

The Hundred Years War is an awkward term to describe a series of wars. As I say in this article, published now in the October edition of History Today, it makes as much sense as lumping all the Franco-Prussian/German wars from 1870 to 1945 and calling them The Seventy-Five Years War. It also obscures a key difference between the early and later wars - one to do with the legitimacy of the Lancastrians and their dynastic weakness in England.

16 September 2009


Today I received a copy of HQ Poetry Magazine, vol. no. 37, edited by Kevin Bishop. It includes on page 18 a short poem of mine - the first I've published for almost ten years. There is something about lyric poetry that I love. It seems so natural, so honest. I wish I'd managed to write more over the last ten years. Unfortunately hard work on the history books has prevented me doing so.

14 September 2009

The Heir Male

Anyone with any doubt as to whether Henry IV was believed by contemporaries to have claimed the throne as the heir male of Henry III need only look at my letter on p. 48 of the Ricardian Bulletin. It tells you more than you probably want to know.

13 September 2009

Forty Years Hence

Last year the editors of the Sixteenth Century Journal asked their contributors to imagine historical research forty years in the future for a fortieth anniversary edition of the journal in 2009. This was my thinking on the matter.

7 September 2009

Interview for medievalists.net

Peter Konieczny - the editor of medievalists.net - sent me a short questionnaire concerning my Time Traveller's Guide which I thoroughly enjoyed answering.

7 September 2009

1415: Henry V's Year of Glory

With the publication date drawing near, I've started to add information to the pages for this book, the fourth in my series of medieval historical biographies. As you'll see, the prologue is now available. I'm also making available a series of my pictures showing a 360-degree view of the Agincourt battlefield, expertly edited by my cousin Stephen Read, which supplement the two extended views that Stephen edited for the book itself.

22 July 2009

The Dying and the Doctors

This book, a scholarly study of the shifts in medicine over the long seventeenth century, has now been published. My own copies arrived today. It is highly analytical - and so is not an easy read - but the subject is an important one. It charts how society shifted from looking to God for physical salvation to a dependence on professional physicians. That shift accompanied so many other changes of outlook in science that it strikes me as profoundly significant in understanding the modern world. It also is important for understanding women's work in the early modern period: in 1600 almost anyone with the time and patience undertook to look after the dying in a community, including young boys and girls; by 1700 it had largely become a specialist nursing activity. Indeed, the very term 'nursing' to denote care of the sick dates from this period.

16 July 2009

Edward III's great bell, 'The Edward'

I recall a venerable scholar in the 1990s telling me what would be lost by the shift to computers, which he saw as a sad but inevitable threat to his ilk. 'I can order a copy of Higden's Polychronicon in the British Library reading room - and find it is bound tgether with something totally unexpected: a lost letter, or a philosophical tract, otherwise unknown. That serendipity will be lost when we are all wired to computers. We will only search for what we already know we want to find.' True enough, as far as deliberate searching goes. But what that old scholar could not have foreseen is a new form of serendipity. I was doing a quick online search this morning for the date at which the spire of St Paul's was struck by lightning, and noted a timeline which later stated that the great bell of Edward III's clock tower at Westminster - which I describe in my book The Perfect King as the forerunner of Big Ben (being on almost exactly the same site) - was sold to St Paul's Cathedral. It was dropped on the way, however, and cracked; and so was recast several times, in 1708, 1709 and 1716. On the last occasion it was renamed 'Great Tom'. I had no idea when writing my book that Edward's timepiece survived (albeit in a melted down and recast form). The original weighed 9,261 lbs; Great Tom now weighs 13,490 lbs. It still rings the hours in the south-west tower of St Paul's Cathedral (the one on the right as you look at the west front).

12 July 2009

Ways with Words festival, Dartington

The wonderful Dartington Hall is once again the venue for the eighteenth Ways with Words festival, which kicked off on Friday. The highlight of the cultural calendar in Devon. My slot was in the Great Hall yesterday afternoon, and I'm pleased to say it was a sell-out. Having said that, it turned out that some friends of mine could not get tickets - so every silver lining has a cloud. The talk itself (which caught the attention of a local paper - The Herald Express) went well, and was very enjoyable. I'll go along again to Dartington on Tuesday (when I'll be chairing the session on The Smell of the Continent by Richard Mullen and James Munson) and Wednesday (when I'll be chairing sessions by Roy and Lesley Adkins (Jack Tar), Mark Bostridge (Florence Nightingale and Andrew Roberts (Masters and Commanders).

4 July 2009

A visit to Trerice, Cornwall.

After all these years writing about longbows, I finally got to hold one at Trerice, a National Trust property in Cornwall. Click here for a picture. The bow was taller then me - and I'm six foot - so it was pretty long; most longbows as I understand it were shorter. And it is very obvious why, when you hold one. It was impossible for me to draw this bow back to its maximum potential, with the string in my fingers making an angle of ninety degrees, because the bow was too big. Had it been six inches shorter, say 5' 9", it would have been much harder for me to draw the string to my ear but the weapon would have had far more potential power. Amazing how much one learns from practical experiment - no book on the longbow ever made me aware of that.

7 April 2009

Audio Book of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

The eleven-CD audio book of my Time Traveller's Guide, read by Jonathan Keeble and published by Isis Publishing, is now available.

1 April 2009

Back on Dartmoor National Park Authority

With effect from today I am a member of Dartmoor National Park Authority again, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I was previously a member from 2003-7, elected by the Teignbridge parishes.

23 March 2009

Seminar to discuss a possible Mortimer Society

Readers who share my interest in The Greatest Traitor, Roger Mortimer (1287-1330), 1st earl of March, and his family, or who are interested in the role played by all six generations of the Mortimer family in the later middle ages, will be interested to know that John Grove is planning to hold a seminar on the potential for a Mortimer History Society. The event will take place at Much Marcle, Herefordshire, on 30 May 2009.

22 March 2009

Cover image released for 1415

Those interested in my forthcoming study of Henry V in the year 1415 can see the cover here.

8 March 2009

US edition of my Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

I see that the proposed publication date for the publication of my Time Traveller's Guide in the USA, by Touchstone Books (a Simon & Schuster imprint), is now 29 December.

16 February 2009

The Book Show, ABC Radio National (Australia)

If you happen to be in Australia, an interview I recorded for the Book Show will be aired tomorrow, 17 February. You can download a version from the AMC website here.

14 February 2009

Why I do not fly

Have added some paragraphs to my essay on not flying. Sadly the subject is very much in the news.

11 February 2009

The Dying and the Doctors

My scholarly study of the medical changes in 17th-century England, which effectively chart how society became medicalised, has been scheduled for publication at the end of May.

1 February 2009

100 Most Influential Books, TLS

I missed this at the time, but at the very end of last year the TLS published a comment by David Horspool, History editor for the paper, about the books which might now be considered for the 'most influential' list to which I referred in a piece published in September 2008. I also see that this week's edition carries a review of my Time Traveller's Guide by Paul Freedman.

24 January 2009

The Inheritance of Rome

My review of Professor Chris Wickham's book appears in today's Guardian newspaper. While having the greatest respect for the author and his academic achievements, I decided that I had to be honest, and say that the book suffers from its uncompromisingly academic focus. There is a difference between history (the study of people in the past) and academia (the study of the evidence), however much academics want to limit 'history' to what they do. And academia is doing us all a disservice by not tackling the intrinsically human issues of living in the past. As I pointed out in my article 'What isn't history?', academic studies of distant periods are of virtually no value outside the lecture hall unless they transcend the philosophical problems about knowing the past, and say something meaningful to the non-academic public about human existence over time. Hence this review had to be critical.


Homepage > What was New in 2009?