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My blog has moved to

My blog has moved to my new website and is now at  I'm no longer posting blogs on this site, but you can still read the old blogs on this site, or you can find them at the new location.     
Recent posts

Pugs, Bruisers and the Fancy: The Language of Pugilism

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bare knuckle boxing was one of Britain's most popular sports. It had its own slang: it was the world of the Fancy, of milling coves and prime goods, bucks and novices, gluttons and swells. This distinctive and racy slang has influenced many writers, as I described in a talk at the Hawkesbury Upton Litfest's Festival of Words on Saturday 22 April 2023. This is a transcript of the talk.   The Game Chicken awakened in Miss Nipper some considerable astonishment; for, having been defeated by the Larkey Boy, his visage was in a state of such great dilapidation, as to be hardly presentable in society with comfort to the beholders. The Chicken himself attributed this punishment to his having had the misfortune to get into Chancery early in the proceedings, when he was severely fibbed by the Larkey one, and heavily grassed. But it appeared from the published records of that great contest that the Larkey Boy had had it all his own way from the

From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth Century Britain, Fiona Haslam, (Liverpool University Press, 1996)

I’m often asked about how I go about doing the research for my historical novels. One of the sources I usually mention is visual art. I’ve always found that looking at contemporary paintings, prints, sketches, sculpture and so on reveals a wealth of information about how people of the past lived – what they wore, what sort of houses they lived in, how they spent their time, the towns and villages they inhabited. Going to an art gallery is one of my favourite research trips – especially if there’s a decent café with tea and cake at the end of an afternoon’s study! Of course, you don’t always have to take artistic representations literally. It’s obvious that whatever you’re looking at is an interpretation of the reality: it’s how the artist saw it. In fact, this subjectivity can be a real advantage if you’re looking for ideas about how people lived and thought. Often the most exaggerated representations, such as satirical prints or caricature, are the most revealing, telling us thi