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OU on the BBC: Breaking the Seal - Meet our experts

Updated Friday, 13th April 2007

Meet the experts featured in the OU's Breaking The Seal series

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Bettany Hughes Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Bettany's talents are extensive. She has written and presented a wide variety of television programmes including Leviathan for BBC2, Wideworld for Channel 5, The South Bank Show for BBC1, Myth and Reality for Radio 4, Breakfast at Bettany's for L!VE TV and The Pier for Meridian. She also travels around the world for Discovery Today and CNN's Art Club.

Before her TV career Bettany studied Ancient and Modern History at Oxford University where she set up the University's first ever contemporary art society.

She's currently writing a History of Pleasure, research for which has taken her from Istanbul's pleasure gardens to the back of a circus horse!

Alan Macfarlane is Professor of Anthropological Science and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge.

He holds doctorates in history and anthropology and is the author of twelve books in these fields, including Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, Reconstructing Historical Communities, A Guide to English Historical Records and Marriage and Love in England.

In his spare time he enjoys walking, gardening and hunting for second-hand books.

Before her retirement in 1988, Ann Williams worked as a Senior Lecturer in medieval history at the Polytechnic of North London.

She is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Royal Historical Society and a senior research fellow at the University of East Anglia.

She has published several books including The English and the Norman Conquest, Kingship and Government in Pre-conquest England and Little Domesday.

David Roffe is a historian who has worked widely in archaeological units and more recently as a research fellow in the University of Sheffield. His research interests include the Danelaw, landscape history, church history, and insanity in the Middle Ages.

Much of his work has focused on the inquest as an instrument of government. He is co-director of the Sheffield Hundred Rolls Project, which aims to edit unpublished verdicts from various thirteenth-century inquests, but his main area of study has been Domesday Book.

He has published extensively on different aspects of the record and has edited five volumes in the Alecto County Edition of the Domesday text. His latest book, entitled Domesday: the Inquest and the Book (2000), redates Domesday Book to 1089-90 and proposes a radically new interpretation of the whole Domesday process.

Stephen Rippon is a graduate in archaeology, whose subsequent research has led him into the realm of landscape history. Key research interests include the exploitation and management of wetlands, and the origins and development of early medieval landscapes.

Stephen is currently studying the development of medieval settlement patterns characterised by isolated farmsteads in the West Midlands, North West Somerset and the Greater Exmoor region.

Stephen is also Chairman of the Council for British Archaeology (South West), editor of Archaeology in the Severn Estuary, and a committee member of the Society for Landscape Studies and Medieval Settlement Research Group. His recent publications include The Gwent Levels: the evolution of a wetland landscape (1996), and The Severn Estuary: landscape evolution and wetland reclamation (1997).

Katharine lives in the Oxfordshire countryside with her husband. They have a large garden which she has lovingly reclaimed from a near-jungle state. She enjoys walking, swimming, watching snooker, most forms of music (except jazz) and devours detective novels and thrillers for relaxation.

For ten years Katharine has been engaged in a form of social history with a considerable genealogical content - rather like assembling a million-piece jigsaw with half the pieces missing! Ten years ago she had never used a computer but has discovered the enormous power they give her as a scholar, and now uses one or more computers every day, enabling her achieve results in detailed research that would be near impossible any other way.

Katharine's work on the Continental Origins of English Landholders (featured in the programme) was published in spring 2000.

David Smith became Archivist to Berkeley Castle when he was appointed County and Diocesan Archivist of Gloucestershire in January 1980.

He has been an archivist for 35 years and previously worked in Lancashire, Coventry and Ipswich. In his spare time he is General Secretary of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.

He co-founded the Gloucestershire Record Series in which the Military Survey of Gloucestershire, 1522, was published in 1993.

David Grummitt is a research fellow at the University of Oxford. He is currently working as part of an international project looking at the effect of war on towns and society in England and the Netherlands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

He did his first degree at the University of Kent at Canterbury, a masters degree at the University of Leicester and his doctoral thesis, on Calais under English rule in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was completed the London School of Economics in 1997.

His expertise in matters of Tudor taxation comes from his work at the Public Record Office cataloguing and indexing the numerous records of royal taxation between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. David has also published a number of articles on aspects of warfare, politics and finance in late medieval and Tudor England.

Elizabeth initially came to local history after training as a scientist and working at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

When family commitments were reduced, she followed her second love - local history. Her interest in the seventeenth-century hearth tax began when transcribing some of the surviving records for Glamorgan.

Since publication of this transcript, she has been working for the Centre for Hearth Tax Research at the University of Surrey - Roehampton, on a doctoral thesis concerning the administration of the tax.

Not surprisingly, taxation is an important topic of conversation in her home, since she is married to a Chartered accountant!

Tom retired ten years ago as a senior lecturer at Warwick University. Since then he has lived in St Just-in-Penwith in west Cornwall, where he has helped run the wonderful Morrab Library in Penzance and worked with the dedicated Penwith Local History Group. He is also an active member of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society's Council and of the Local Population Studies' editorial board.

Retirement has enabled Tom to revel endlessly in Penwith's breathtaking coastal and inland scenery, enjoy the constant stream of paintings that it inspires from its many artists and take timeless coffee breaks with his friends and neighbours. His critical faculties are often applied to the relative merits of the products of St Austell's Sharp's and Skinners' breweries.

In 2000, he co-edited a volume for the latter on the study of probate records, which was published in 2000 as When Death Us Do Part.

Ken Gibb has been part of Glasgow Museums Conservation Department for 25 years. He also sits on the Museum committee of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Regimental Museum and is Meetings Secretary of the Scottish Military Historical Society.

Ken collects and researches Scottish Military headdress badges, specialising in a little known volunteer unit from the south side of Glasgow - the Third Lanark Rifle Volunteers 1859-1908. He has undertaken a long term project which involves recording all known Third Lanark uniforms, fittings and members.

Ken is frequently called upon to identify and date Scottish Military items and has collaborated in several specialist publications, including W H Bloomer's Badges of the Highland and Lowland Regiments (1982).

Other projects include the research, design and installation of a room in Blair Castle, Perthshire, telling the history of the Atholl Highlanders. He is also taking part in the conservation and installation of the recently opened Royal Highland Fusiliers Regimental Museum.

David is a lecturer of History at Kings College London.

He is a leading authority on England in the thirteenth century and has published The Battles of Lewes and Eveston 1264/1265, The Minority of King Henry III and The Reign of King Henry III - a book which contains several chapters on Simon de Montfort.

Breaking the Seal is just the latest in a long line of broadcasts that David has taken part in. He has recently written the 1066-1314 volume in the new Penguin History of Britain series.

John says: "After reading History at Oxford and training as a teacher I was rescued in 1983 by the opportunity to work at the Duke of Wellington's Regimental Museum in Halifax. Having spent hours glued to the glass cases there as a child this was a dream come true (second only to the fact that I was featured in a piece of Airfix box art which was, sadly, never issued!)."

The staff at the Museum are currently working on a major redisplay of the collection, scheduled to open in time for the Regiment's tercentenary in 2002.

For the last 25 years John has also been a member of the American Civil War Society, but has now taken the 'King's shilling' and is the chairman of a unit representing the 33rd Foot (later the Duke of Wellington's Regiment) during the Napoleonic Wars.

"Three cheers for His Majesty and the Prince Regent!"

Born in Southampton, Julian read history at Emmanuel College Cambridge and, after a spell in the tourist industry, joined the National Army Museum in 1987. As Senior Information Officer he is a frequent contributor to radio and television programmes - his BBC appearances have ranged from Midweek to The Generation Game.

His liaison work keeps him in close contact with the British Army of today and he has been a regular lecturer at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick (featured in BBC's Soldiers To Be series). He has made three visits to Bosnia to collect items for display in the Museum and organises battlefield tours to Normandy, Flanders and Waterloo.

Julian has produced a number of Special Exhibitions at the National Army Museum and recently oversaw the production of both the Museum's Modern Army Gallery and its Road to Waterloo Gallery, which is featured in Breaking the Seal.

Michael Snape studied and teaches at the University of Birmingham. He has been researching religious life in eighteenth-century England for the past ten years, writing his doctoral thesis on the Lancashire parish of Whalley, his home parish and also the largest parish in England at that time.

He has published an article on anti-Methodist riots (Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1998) and on demonic possession (Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 1994) and has several articles and essays forthcoming, including one on the northern clergy in the eighteenth century which will be published in Northern History in May 2000. His book, The Church of England and a Northern Parish, 1689-1789, will be published next year by the Chetham Society. This will include a lengthy chapter on the church courts and the complex reasons for their severe decline during this period. He is currently working on a new book which investigates religious life in the British army from Marlborough to Montgomery.

His hobbies include swimming, military history and historical re-enactment.

Richard’s academic career has spanned the Atlantic having studied at Princeton, Harvard, Chicago and Trinity College Dublin. He first worked as Assistant Professor of History at Washington University but returned in 1981 to the University of Chicago as Professor of Law. He has also been a visiting fellow at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Just some of Richard’s many affiliations include fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, membership of the advisory board for the Journal of Legal History. He has been a fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1978, is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Ecclesiastical Law Journal.

His publications are extensive and include:
Fundamentals of Property Law (1999) (with Barlow Burke and Ann M Burkhart)
The Spirit of Classical Canon Law (1996)
Canon Law in Protestant Lands (1992) (editor and contributor)
Roman Canon Law in Reformation England (1990)
Canon Law and the Law of England (1987)
Canon Law and English Common Law (1983)
Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (1974)

Martin Ingram is a Fellow, Tutor and University Lecturer in Modern History at Brasenose College, Oxford.

Currently he is also the Senior Tutor of the College. The main focus of his research is how marriage and personal morality were regulated, especially by courts of law, in Tudor and Stuart England. Most recently he has been working on the historical context of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure', which bears on this theme. His publications include Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640 (Cambridge, 1987) and numerous articles on sex and marriage, crime and the law, popular customs, religious beliefs and behaviour, and related topics. He has also published on the history of climate.

In his spare time he likes walking, all things historical, and family pursuits.

Rob Lutton is a historian of late medieval popular religion and the English Reformation. He completed his PhD on piety and heresy in Tenterden Kent, in 1997, at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Whilst working on his doctorate Rob worked for a year as a lecturer in late medieval history at the University of Manchester. Currently working in higher education administration, Rob is aiming to establish an academic career.

Having already published one article from his PhD (in M. Aston and C. Richmond, Lollardy and the Gentry in the Later Middle Ages (1997)) Rob is revising his thesis for publication as a book by the Royal Historical Society.

Jane Cox is a seventeenth century historian by inclination and training, having specialised in the Restoration at Queen Mary College, London University. Over the years she has applied herself to a variety of periods and topics, from Domesday Book to Ramsay MacDonald.

She spent 23 years employed by the Public Record Office where she was caught up in the genealogical boom and became the PRO’s ‘woman in family history’, lecturing and writing on the subject.

For 12 years she has been a freelance historian, specialising in local and church history and ancient probate law. She also undertakes genealogical research for private clients, researches for Burke’s Peerage, writes for family history journals and researches house histories.

She has organised a number of major historical exhibtions, including the PRO’s 1986 Domesday Exhibition. For five years she was chairman of the Stepney Historical Trust. For six months she drove a taxi for Lady Cabs and has been church warden of Christ Church Hampstead Square for two years.

Her two sons are named Charles and Oliver, for obvious reasons!

Her publications are extensive and are included in the Reading List.

Elizabeth Danbury has been Director of International Projects and Research and Senior Lecturer in Palaeography and Diplomatic at the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at University College London since September 1997. From January 1977 until August 1997 she was Lecturer in Palaeography and Diplomatic and Director of the postgraduate Archives Training Course in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool. She has taught Palaeography for more than half her life - and still finds the subject fascinating. There is always so much more to learn. Archivists, librarians, historians, art historians, local and family historians, literature and language specialists, archaeologists and many others benefit from a knowledge of Palaeography and many have to use it in their everyday work.

At the moment she is working with colleagues in the University of London to develop a way of teaching Palaeography on line, and with colleagues inside and outside Great Britain on a variety of projects relating to the access and preservation of archives, manuscripts and printed books. She is also trying - desperately - to complete a textbook on Palaeography for Historians!

Vic Gatrell is Reader in British Social and Cultural History in the Faculty of History, Cambridge University. He is also a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was born in South Africa, but has lectured in Cambridge since his graduation.

He has published widely on the history of crime and punishment in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. His book, 'The hanging tree: execution and the English people, 1770-1868' won the Whitfield Prize of the Royal Historical Society when it was published in 1994. It examines the changing ways in which people at all social levels felt about public execution, and how the 'Bloody Code' of capital laws was progressively repealed.

He says that his current writing marks a very therapeutic shift in subject matter, because he is now working on a history of English humour across the same period. It is particularly concerned with satirical prints and their relation to 'mentalities' in the era of Gillray, Rowlandson, and Cruikshank. After a book on hanging, this has cheered him up a great deal!

Michael Clanchy received his BA from Merton College, Oxford in 1959, then progressed through teaching and a Diploma of Education, to becoming a lecturer in History. He has held lectureships at Universities on both sides of the Atlantic, including London, Glasgow, New York, Toronto and the Harvard Law School.

He has been a member of the Council of the Selden Society since 1975, the Pipe Roll Society 1981-1993, and the Royal Historical Society 1982-1986. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1999.

Publications include:
Civil Pleas of the Wiltshire Eyre of 1249 (1971)
The Roll and Writ File of the Berkshire Eyre of 1248 (1973)
From Memory to Written Record (1979, 1993)
England and its Rulers 1066-1272 (1983, 1998)
Abelard - A Medieval Life (1997)

James Sharpe was born in London in 1946. He took both a BA and DPhil at Oxford, and after holding temporary lectureships at the Universities of Durham and Exeter joined the staff of the History Department at the University of York in 1973. He has worked there since that date, being promoted to Professor in 1997.

He has researched and published extensively on the history of crime and punishment. An adapted version of his doctoral thesis was published in 1983 as 'Crime in Seventeenth Century England: a County Study', and in 1984 he published his 'Crime in early modern England 1550 - 1750', which has established itself as the standard work on the subject, being published in a revised second edition in 1999. Among other books he has published 'Early Modern England: a Social History 1550 - 1760', which has also gone into a second edition, and a major work on English witchcraft in the early modern period, 'Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in England 1550 - 1750', published in 1996. His most recent book, 'The Bewitching of Anne Gunter', is a detailed case - study of witchcraft which draws on a wide range of legal and administrative documents.

He is continuing to research into crime, and currently is project manager of a major Economic and Social Research Council Grant on violence in England between 1600 and 1800. He is English Corespondent of the International Association for the History of Crime and Criminal Justice, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has recently completed a period on the Committee of the Social History Society of the United Kingdom.

Ruth Paley works for the History of Parliament where she is responsible for a new project to produce a comprehensive account of the history and significance of the House of Lords, 1660-1832.

Her personal research interests are in the social history of the law, with special reference to London and the criminal justice system. She has published an edition of the justicing diary of an eighteenth century magistrate and articles on London thieftakers, the policing of London before the invention of the Metropolitan Police Force and the law of slavery in England.

Ruth (in collaboration with Elaine A Reynolds) has written the history of the policing of London, 1700-1839. She has also edited a calendar of criminal cases in the London area that were tried in the court of King's Bench c1700-1875.

Phillipp is a Lecturer in Medieval History at the Department of History and Welsh History, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

His research interests centre on English peasantry in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries - topics he has investigated include the impact of famines and plagues on rural life and the role of gossip in village communities.

His recent publications include 'Peasants and the Manor Court: gossip and litigation in a Suffolk village at the close of the thirteenth century' - an article in Past and Present (No.159, May 1998). He has also written on the middle ages for the national press and has been interviewed on the same for radio.

He lives with his family in West Wales where he spends his time scuba-diving, hill-walking, and clambering around historical sites. Phillipp's latest book, Peasant and Community in Later Medieval England was published at the end of 2000.

Born in Sussex in 1942, Sarah studied drama at the Guildhall School of Music then went on to be a teacher.

She has been working on the Earls Colne project since 1971 but has also managed to find time for other interests.

In the 1980s she was involved in a historical anthropological study of the Nagas of Assam - an ancient tribe from a part of India off-limits to outsiders.

She has also collaborated with Alan MacFarlane (see Programme 1) on several projects, including Reconstructing Historical Communities (1977), The Justice and the Mare's Ale (1981) and books about 17th century clergyman Ralph Josselin.

Brian has been at the University of Sussex since 1974 and is currently Reader in Human Geography and Dean of the School of Cultural and Community Studies. His early years with his father, spent exploring the East Kent countryside, helps account for his long-standing interest in the history of the countryside and the analysis of rural communities.

Recently he has focussed his research around the analysis of large-scale surveys of rural Britain. By the mid 1980s he was working on an evaluation of the survey mounted by Lloyd George in 1909-10. Every individual property, large and small, urban or rural, was investigated, yielding a 'Domesday' of the United Kingdom. During the 1990s he has been investigating the National Farm Survey 1941-43, which yields enormous amounts of information about every farm in the country during the wartime crisis.

His publications include The South East from AD 1000 (1990), The English Rural Community: Image and Analysis (1992); Land and Society in Edwardian Britain (1997), An Historical Atlas of Sussex (1999), and The National Farm Survey 1941-1943: State surveillance and the countryside in England and Wales in the Second World War.

Leigh Shaw-Taylor is a research fellow at Jesus College Cambridge. He is currently working on a book on the effects of parliamentary enclosure on the rural poor.

He started a Physics degree at the University of Oxford but did not complete it. He then went on to do a first degree with the Open University while working as a computer consultant. This was followed by a masters degree in Economic and Social History at the University of Oxford. His doctoral thesis concerning the impact of parliamentary enclosure on agricultural labourers was completed early last year at the University of Cambridge

Roy was Professor of Economic History at the University of East Anglia and at the University of Stirling. After he retired he became a senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow and now lives in the south west of Scotland.

His main interests were initially in the industrial history of Scotland but he now gives more attention to rural history. He also maintains a continuing interest in the intellectual life of Scotland in the 18th century, particularly in the works of Adam Smith.

Publications include Scotland Since 1707: the rise of an industrial society (1965), which has been a standard text in University courses since its first edition; The Rise and Fall of Scottish Industry 1707-1939 (1980) and Owners and Occupiers (1991). He was also joint editor of the Glasgow edition of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.

Harold Fox is a professor of Social and Landscape History at the Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester.

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