I am the Edward Orsborn Professor of US Politics & Political History and the Director of the Rothermere American Institute. I was born in the Northeast of England and went to Durham Johnston Comprehensive School and then to Oxford, Sheffield, Harvard and Cambridge universities. I taught for sixteen years at UCL before taking up my current position at Oxford.
My specialism is the history of the United States in the nineteenth century. In 2017, the University of North Carolina Press published my latest book, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846-1865. My previous books include No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). (If you like, you can watch a video of me giving a lecture about that book at The Gilder Lehrman Institute.) I’m also the author of The American Civil War (New York: Palgrave, 2007), of a short biography of Abraham Lincoln published by the History Press in 2014, and of the Connell Guide to the American Civil War (2017). I also contributed to an AHRC-funded Images of America project and to a book on the global image of Abraham Lincoln.
My principal area of research explores the relationship between ideas and political behaviour. Another strand of my research focuses on the study of the image of the United States around the world. On this theme my most recent publication is an article about the ‘cult’ of Abraham Lincoln in interwar Britain, which appeared in the journal Twentieth Century British History. I am currently completing a book for OUP on the battle of Gettysburg in history and memory which, among other things, situates the meanings of that great battle in a transnational context. I also have academic interests in the history of theatre and in transatlantic liberalism and conservatism in the nineteenth century.
I regularly present documentaries on BBC Radio and write for various magazines and websites. I also take a close interest in school history teaching, having previously worked on education policy for the Royal Historical Society, and having previously taught an undergraduate course in which students created and delivered a sequence of lessons to Key Stage 3 pupils.