I am a historian of England, and of the English speaking world, since the middle ages. My main interests are in the history of language and communication in all its forms. My current projects include a history of free speech; a global history of English; a brief history of the signature; and the biography of a seventeenth-century scrivener and spy.
I have previously published on various other topics, and especially on the history of changing sexual attitudes and behaviour. My book The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution tells the story of the Enlightenment origins of modern western attitudes to sex. It drew on pictorial, fictional, judicial, philosophical, and other kinds of evidence, and tried to connect together social, intellectual, literary, legal, political, and other kinds of history.
I am strongly committed to public engagement and the communication of historical scholarship to as wide an audience as possible, through writing for the press, broadcasting, and public speaking. My current projects include a series for BBC radio on the history of free speech.
Before coming to Princeton in 2016, I spent many years on the Faculty at Oxford, where I am now a life fellow of All Souls College and of Exeter College. I was educated at Oxford, York, and Amsterdam.