My main areas of research interest to date have been twofold. First, deriving from my doctoral work in Oxford, I am interested in the ways in which landscape was represented in English literature. I have sought to show in a number of articles the extent to which landscape was a theological category in eighteenth century thought. This work has led me to write about a range of canonical authors in the “long” eighteenth century including Addison, Pope, Fielding, Gilpin and Radcliffe.My main focus, however, has been on the work of Samuel Johnson, and this has resulted in a monograph with Palgrave, Landscape, Literature and English Religious Culture, 1660-1800 (2004).
Second, my interest in the eighteenth century led me to a concern with the history of geography in early modern England. This was the main project I pursued during my time in Cambridge and has been my main area of research ever since. I have concentrated on seventeenth and eighteenth century British geographical writings for the most part, with some excursions into the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, this range being fully exemplified in a monograph on the topic, Enlightenment Geography (2000).
At present I am writing a book, provisionally entitled Untimely Prophet, about the intellectual history of Thomas Robert Malthus and the reception of Malthusianism from 1798 to the present day for Harvard University Press. Malthus is key to the emergence of recognisably "modern" debates about the nexus between resources, population and economic decision making, and to recover his thought and the debates which have surrounded it is vital if we want to make historically-informed choices in the present day. The British Academy have geneously awarded me a Senior Research Fellowship for the academic year 2011-12 to pursue the completion of this book.
I was an undergraduate and graduate student in the School of Geography at the University of Oxford, a (then) wonderful place which tolerated my eccentricities, whilst the good offices of my tutors at Hertford College and especially Jack Langton at St John's College downright encouraged me to think and pursue my interests wherever the might lead me. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,/ But to be young was very heaven.”
I then held a British Academy research fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, another centre of spirited and independent thought long associated with a scholarly and humane understanding of the task of the geographer, before moving to a lectureship at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1999. I moved to a Readership in Historical Geography here in Bristol in 2005. I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2007 and was made Professor of Historical Geography and Intellectual History in 2008. I am the book reviews editor for H-Net's historical geography network and also edit the two monograph series: “Studies in Historical Geography” for IB Tauris (7 titles published to date with two further books under contract) and Ashgate's Historical Geography series (1 title published to date with five further books under contract).
I teach a wide range of courses around historical geography, the history and nature of geography and qualitative methods in human geography from 1st year undergraduate through to masters level. I also welcome doctoral research students interested in the history of geographical thought broadly conceived.
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