Personal profile


I am a cultural and social historian of the nineteenth century and director of the Supernatural Cities project. In 2013 I received the Katharine Briggs Award for my second monograph, The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack.

My research interests fall under the umbrella heading of "the fantastical imagination". I take this to include magical beliefs and practices, ghosts and the supernatural, prophecy and millenarianism, legends, folklore and (proto-) science-fiction tropes in the modern period (anything post-1700). I am particularly interested in the way these ideas and mentalities informed the experience and understanding of modernisation.

At the same time I use these rather offbeat areas of historical research to explore the nature of different types of nineteenth-century cultures and the concept of modernity. I am happy to supervise PhDs on any of these weird and wonderful topics. I have been a member of the University of Portsmouth's History team since 2007.  

Research Interests

My current research interests include

  • Researching and writing a popular cultural history of the Atlantic Ocean as a supernatural environment (contracted by Reaktion).
  • Exploring interdisciplinary and technological approaches to understanding urban space and the creative imagination via the development and co-leadership of the 'Portsmyth' project.
  • Changing representations of witches and witchcraft in nineteenth-century cheap literature and popular culture.
  • Completing a chapter on the humanising of the Devil in western culture, 1850 - 2000. 

Discipline Areas

  • History

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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