Born in Liverpool, England, I was educated there at St Edward's College, then went on to study at University College, Oxford. After that I spent a couple of years in-house in publishing. I quickly left to pursue a freelance life, working at once as a copywriter, publisher's reader (assessing scripts and imported books for Michael Joseph, Macmillan, Penguin, Hodder & Stoughton, Allison & Busby and others ...), copyeditor and proofreader.
My writing career began with a series of contributions to Time-Life Books' History of the World series; I've written both books and chapters for many multi-volume (mostly illustrated) series since. I've also been sole author of well over 60 books – overwhelmingly nonfiction titles aimed at the general reader, as entertainingly written as they are rigorously-researched. In so far as I've had a specialization, it's been on history, ancient and modern, but I've ranged very widely across the humanities, covering subjects from art and architecture to zoology and from mythology to nature, travel and social issues. Just about everything except 'hard' science, in short. My books include (among many others):
Ancient Rome, BBC, Ancient Civilizations, 2001. (Published in the US by Dorling Kindersley.) Top-selling Ancient History title, Amazon UK, 2002.
To Be Or Not to Be: Shakespeare’s Soliloquies, Penguin, April 2002. (Edited compilation.)
Shakespeare on Love, Penguin, February 2003. (Edited compilation.)
Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle: The Journals that Revealed Nature’s Grand Plan (Saraband/Barnes & Noble, 2005) Darwin’s own account, abridged and edited with introduction, commentary, etc.
The Ancients in Their Own Words (3C, 2009: the lives of the peoples of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc as revealed in their inscriptions.)
A History of Death: Burial Customs and Funeral Rites, from the Ancient World to Modern Times (Spellmount, 2007).
The American Presidents: A Dark History (Amber/Barnes and Noble, March 2011).
Panda: Back from the Brink (Saraband, 2012).
Where There's a Will: Make Plans Now and Spare Your Loved Ones a Whole Lot of Grief, Saraband, 2012.
Illuminated Manuscripts (Flame Tree, September 2014).
Kandinsky (Flame Tree, 2015).
Secrets of Alaska, Flame Tree, 2019.
A Handbook of Scotland’s History (Saraband, 2016).
Celtic Legends (Amber, 2016).
Visions of Fuji (Flame Tree, 2016).
Hitler: The Man Behind the Monster (Amber, 2017).
William Blake (Flame Tree, 2018).
I've also written hundreds of book reviews over the years, for the *Times Literary Supplement*, the *Guardian* and the *Scotsman*. I've also written a few book-based feature articles. I have a strong reading knowledge of Spanish (often reviewing Spanish-language novels for the *TLS*) and can just about manage in French as well.
University College, Oxford, BA Hons, English