Here is the presentation paper I gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol, ‘Rethinking History from Below: Origins, Trajectories, Prospects’, held on 16 June, 2017.


I want you to imagine a riot. I want you to place yourself in the midst of that riot, dead center. What do you see? What’s going down?

Now let me show you one in which there was a sale. The year:1766. The town: Cirencester in Gloucestershire. A crowd numbering about a thousand descended upon the town. They came from (more…)

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A remarkable, and may I add “restricted,” document discovered deep within the archives of the British Library revealed much of the politics that surrounded Admiral John Byng’s court martial as well as the subsequent government inquiry into how the island of Minorca fell to the French in April of 1756. Those two went together. But prior to both, the Newcastle government collapsed: too many (more…)

I’ve just over a week until I leave California and return to the archives in London. The four chapters I wrote for my dissertation are simply not enough to produce a serious book: a few chapters too short! There remain four unanswered questions which are:  (more…)

Admiral John Byng lives an immortal life. Executed by his government for the crime of “not doing one’s utmost”, time and history have worked to mythologize events.

The latest in memory-making belongs to The Telegraph of London. The newspaper printed one of those ‘On this day’ articles: in this case, a commemoration outlining Byng’s execution by firing squad aboard HMS Monarch (14 March 1757).

Yet The Telegraph’s brief article contained many egregious errors, (more…)

As I work through some key issues for my book on John Byng, it became difficult to avoid the fact that the admiral participated in Britain’s pre-emptive strike against France in 1755. Yes, the Seven Years’ War had many precursors prior to the official declaration of war (May 1756), the Channel Campaign among them. Pre-emptive war is familiar to us thanks to the United States invasion of (more…)

Passions run deep in British history.

No further proof necessary than that of an eighteenth-century Frenchman, François-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as that great French philosophe, Voltaire. His 1759 publication Candide proved his attachment, if not outright admiration, for all things (more…)

Today I walked down from 13 Woodland Road (sight of the History Department at Bristol University) to the Print Services office down the hill. There was an unexpected cost: my dissertation will be placed on the university’s library shelves. As such, it must be hardbound, black spine, gold lettering, my name, title, and year. It’s kind of cool, except for the (more…)