I am a graduate of the University of Manchester, where I completed my undergraduate degree and my doctoral research. I have worked in Oxford for most of my career – as a researcher in the Heberden Coin Room in the Ashmolean Museum; in the University administration in Wellington Square; and now, since 2006, in the Department for Continuing Education. I direct the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies and I teach on the MSc in English Local History and the MSt in Historical Studies.
I was named in 2012 as ‘Most Acclaimed Lecturer’ in the Department by Oxford University Student Union; I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; and I served as the University's Junior Proctor in 2016-17.
My research interests are in the economy, society, and ecclesiastical history of later medieval Britain. Connecting themes across my projects have been the workings of valuations and prices and the relationships between them.
My first book – Changing Values in Medieval Scotland, co-authored with Nicholas Mayhew (Cambridge University Press, 1995) - was the first systematic study of prices, money, and weights and measures in medieval Scotland. The copious evidence available for the study enabled us to produce a richly contextualised account of individual prices and how they were made.
Among the sources that we used for the book were the Council Registers of medieval Aberdeen. These manuscript volumes are a jewel in the Crown among the records of medieval Scottish burghs, surviving as they do in a near-continuous series from 1398 onwards and providing important and exciting evidence about the economic, social, and political life of the town and its hinterland. I edited the fifteenth-century guild court records for the Scottish History Society in 2005; and my recent article in the Journal of Medieval History 'Debt, Distraint, Display, and Dead Men's Treasure', is a study of people's possessions and their public significance in the later medieval town. This heralds a larger, ongoing project on the organisation of commerce and credit in Aberdeen, based on these remarkable records.
The Medieval Northeast
My current research project is a study of prices of consumables in the later medieval northeast, based on the rich manuscript records of Durham Cathedral Priory. The price history of medieval England has for far too long relied on data from farther south. It is time for the northeast to tell its own story! This is not just about its prices, but about how a great ecclesiastical institution sought to negotiate and control them; the nature of the relationships between valuations and prices; and the special and particular characteristics of trade and commerce in this region.
Valuations of Medieval Churches
A third strand of my research relates to valuations of ecclesiastical property. My book, The Nobility and Ecclesiastical Patronage in Thirteenth-Century England (Boydell, 2013), was the first integrated study of noble patronage rights in both monasteries and parish churches. It revealed, by a close examination of the deployment of those rights and the political discourse and government policies relating to them, how highly they were valued as a resource. As part of my understanding of the regional distribution of patronage I prepared a scholarly edition of the Register of John Salmon, bishop of Norwich, published in 2019 by the Canterbury and York Society. The introduction to the edition of this bishop's register – the first to survive from the diocese of Norwich - explored the career of John Salmon himself, the distribution and use of ecclesiastical patronage in medieval East Anglia, and the qualifications and career patterns of the clergy. The research for these books has opened up a fresh line of investigation for me, into the valuations of medieval churches in royal government inquisitions. Income from tithes is an important indicator of economic performance and so these records have the potential to tell us about changing patterns of prosperity and demography – between regions and across time.
I welcome applications from Master's and DPhil students wanting to undertake research projects on any aspect of the economy, society, and ecclesiastical history of later medieval Britain.