My research focuses on early modern Europe, including Britain, and particularly on Italy. I've published on the history of diplomacy, on material culture and on political life in this period more broadly. My first book, Our Man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian Ambassador, was published in 2012 and explored the diplomacy behind Henry’s first divorce. An academic monograph, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome followed in 2015. My new project looks at the cultural history of handguns during the early sixteenth century, when they were a new technology.
Alongside my work in early modern history I'm interested in the presentation of this past to the public: in popular literature, films, on TV and at heritage sites. In recent work I've explored the use of performance and narrative to communicate historical research. The Black Prince of Florence, my biography of Alessandro de’ Medici, first Medici duke of Florence and said to be the illegitimate son of an enslaved African woman, was published in 2016. It was an Evening Standard book of the year and shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2017. I’m currently working on a related creative writing project.
I was a 2015 BBC Radio 3 'New Generation Thinker' and regularly contribute to radio and TV programmes including Radio 3’s Free Thinking. I was an adviser to the set team on the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall and have appeared on Radio 4’s In Our Time.
I studied Politics and Communication Studies at the University of Liverpool and went on to work in the media before returning to academia to study for a PhD in History at Royal Holloway, University of London. I held fellowships at the Institute for Historical Research, the British School at Rome and the European University Institute, and taught at Durham and Sheffield Universities before taking up my post at Swansea in 2015.