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Reader in Cultural History, University of Portsmouth

I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2007, having previously taught at the University of East Anglia. My research explores the history of the fantastical imagination. I take this to include magical and supernatural beliefs, witchcraft, occult and pseudo-scientific practices, prophecies, legends and folklore, monsters and teratology, the Gothic, and (proto-) science-fiction tropes in the modern period (anything post-1700). I am happy to supervise PhDs on any of these topics. My first monograph, The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914 was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society’s 2012 Whitfield Prize. My second book, The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack: Victorian Urban Folklore and Popular Cultures won the Katharine Briggs Award in 2013.

I am a keen advocate of public engagement and frequently seek to develop collaborations with creative writers and other artistic practitioners. Previous activities include the crowdsourcing of local ghost stories and the co-editing of Dark City, a collection of short stories and poems produced by local writers. In 2016 I led the creation of Portsmouth DarkFest, a new cultural festival that drew its inspiration from my Supernatural Cities project (see below). This was developed in collaboration with the Portsmouth Writers Hub, the 1000 Plateaus art collective and other artistic communities within the city.

I teach across the undergraduate programme, including core level 5 units such as Empires and Identities 1750-1914, and The Masses and Modernity 1750-1914, options such as In Darkest England: Culture, Conflict and the City, and my level 6 Special Subject, Magic and Modernity 1800-1920. Additionally, I supervise third-year dissertations in the social and cultural history of the nineteenth century.

At postgraduate level I am the History department’s course liaison tutor for the MRes in Humanities and Social Science and regularly supervise MRes research projects. I am currently first supervisor for three PhD students, with projects ranging from the eighteenth-century Royal Navy and public health reform to monstrous folklore and nineteenth-century popular protest.


  • –present
    Reader in Cultural History, University of Portsmouth