I grew up in the Thames Valley, but come from a mainly Scottish background, and did my undergraduate degree in Medieval History at St Andrews. Then I went to the Courtauld Institute, where I did an MA in Medieval Art History, and then my doctorate on ‘Gothic Architecture in Normandy in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’.
I worked for many years in the Conway Library at the Courtauld Institute, curating a vast collection of photographs of medieval monuments. The collection included some wonderful early photographs, and I became very interested in the early history of photography, especially photography of monuments. The collection included photographs taken during Merimee’s famous ‘Mission Heliographique’ of 1851, to record the great buildings of medieval France, and photographs commissioned by Viollet-le-Duc to record his restorations of Notre Dame in Paris in the 1850s and 1860s. I curated two exhibitions held at the Courtauld Galleries. The first, in 1992, featured photographs from the collection by T.E.Lawrence and his brother, and introduced the brilliant photographs of Robert Byron to both scholars and the general public. The second, in 2004, featured some of the wonderful early photographs of monuments in the Middle East in the collection, including works by Robertson, Frith, Hammerschmidt and Bedford.
My main research interests focus on the political, ecclesiastical and cultural history of France in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. I have written books on Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis: Church and State in Early Twelfth Century France, and Architecture and Society in Normandy, c. 1120-1270. I am currently completing a biography of Blanche of Castile, the mother of St Louis.
Within the department, I am Senior Tutor, and convenor for Placements.
I have just finished a three-year term as President of the British Archaeological Association, which I have enjoyed very much, and I am on the boards of the Angevin Acta Project Trust, and the Allen Brown Memorial Trust, which runs the Battle Conference and Anglo-Norman Studies. I also advised English Heritage on their major restoration of Dover Castle Keep. Interests outside History include walking, gardening, cooking, opera and visiting medieval monuments. I am learning to play the cello, but play it very badly.