I am a historian specialising in British performance traditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Areas of interest
- Nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and American literature (fiction, drama, poetry)
- British performance traditions, especially comedy in theatre, film, and television
- The life and career of the actor-manager Sir Henry Irving (1838–1905); the life and career of the novelist and playwright Sir Hall Caine (1853-1931); the life and career of the musician Thomas Monck Mason (1803-1889); Italian, French, and German opera in nineteenth-century London; melodrama; pantomime; theatrical orientalism
- The profession of the playwright; dramatic censorship; the legal and economic contexts of performance
- Theatrical biography and autobiography
- The management of performing arts collections; theatre museums; the public exhibition of theatrical artefacts and world performance traditions; the preservation and adaptive reuse of historical theatres and music halls
In addition to talking on a broad range of subjects related to the history and literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I write a research blog called The Victorian Peeper in which I share my boundless enthusiasm for the amazing (and sometimes appalling) age of the Victorians (1837-1901). The blog has a companion Facebook page and Twitter feed.
My doctoral research at the University of Leicester focused on the plays of Hall Caine and included the first detailed study of Mahomet, a four-act historical drama based on the life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, which Caine wrote in 1890 for the actor-manager Henry Irving. The rumour this play would be produced in London prompted protests from Muslim leaders in Britain, caused unrest that threatened British rule in parts of India, and strained the nation’s relationship with the Ottoman Empire. Although the play treats Islam sympathetically, it was immediately banned by the Lord Chamberlain in his capacity as licenser of stage plays. My thesis analysed the many contexts of this controversial play, which to this day has never been performed. It also revealed antecedents to modern conflicts between freedom of speech and the protection of religious sensibilities, which have deeper historical roots than are usually acknowledged.
My work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Royal Historical Society; the Institute of Historical Research; the British Association for Victorian Studies; the Houghton Library, Harvard University; and the Society for Theatre Research.
I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees from Michigan State University with additional training in documentary editing from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (U.S. National Archives) and historical database creation and management from the University of London.
You can visit my Academia.edu profile, which includes PDFs of many of my publications, here. I welcome your comments and questions.