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Peter Marshall: Public Engagement

Among the major academic disciplines, History is uniquely placed to engage with a wide and genuine public interest in its findings and contentions. For practicing professional historians, this is a privilege and a pleasure, but also a serious obligation. In my own work - on the Reformation, on the cultural and political history of Britain in the early modern period, and on the nature of popular beliefs in the past - I have for many years attempted to reach beyond a narrowly academic audience and to disseminate such expertise as I have outside the pages of scholarly journals and books. This page describes some of these activities.

Heritage and Public History

I have spoken about my research and publications at a number of national and public events, including the Oxford Literary Festival, Throckmorton Literary Festival, Chalke Valley History Festival, Wigtown Book Festival and Warwick Words Festival, where I have inn addition organised and chaired a debate on 'which was the period of greatest change in English history?' I have also taken part in a public debate on the significance of the Reformation at Norwuich Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament. I have twice addressed audiences of National Trust Volunteers and others at Coughton Court in Warwickshire. In September 2014, I delivered two public lectures in Vancouver, hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. In May 2016 I spoke alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury at a Symposium on Thomas Becket at Lambeth Palace, to coincide with the visit to the UK from Hungary of the saint's surviving relics. For the Reformation anniversary of 2017, I delivered numerous public lectures, in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada.

In a contribution to theatrical culture, I have provided programme essays on historical themes for productions of The Lightning Play at the Almeida Theatre in London, and of Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, and advised the company Third Angel on their 2015 production, The Paradise Project.

I was extensively involved in the public commemoration (2009) of the quincentennary of the accession of Henry VIII. For the exhibition at the British Library, I contributed numerous display captions, as well as an essay and nine short entries for the exhibition catalogue on Henry VIII: Man and Monarch. For Hampton Court Palace, I wrote an online essay on Death in Henry VIII's England, and was filmed for a series of interviews on the Palace Website (viewable here).

Other uses of new media to popularise my work include both podcast and i-cast recordings relating to my research on the history of angels, a series of short Youtube interviews linked to my publications on the Reformation, and a number of essays for two interactive CD-Roms on Pilgrims and Pilgrimage and The English Parish Church, produced by the York-based Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture. I have written blogposts for OUP, Yale UP and 'The Conversation', and been interviewed by the Five Books Website on 'The Best Books on the Reformation', From the Desk website, and What'shername podcast series (on the Catholic martyr, Margaret Clitherow).



Print: I am a regular reviewer on a range of topics for the Times Literary Supplement, The Tablet and the Literary Review (for a sample, see here). I have also published articles in the Church Times, and in the popular history periodicals History Today and BBC History Magazine. In July 2010 the latter featured my Journal of Ecclesiastical History article, 'The Reformation of Hell', in its section on 'the best stories from academic periodicals', and in May 2017 I provided the lead cover article.

Radio: I have contributed to a Radio 3 documentary on late medieval chantries, entitled 'An Obligation of Love', and also to an edition of the flagship arts programme, Nightwaves, discussing the history and theology of angels in the context of Danielle Trussoni's blockbuster novel, Angelology. Also for Radio 3, in April 2009 I wrote and presented an edition of 'The Essay', on the theme of Henry VIII's religion, and in March 2012 took part in a panel discussion on William Byrd and Catholicism. For Radio 4, I developed the concept for, and contributed to, an episode of the series Forbidden Families in August 2008. I am also a regular on-air contributor to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, particularly its Sunday morning programming, where I have been interviewed on such diverse topics as ghosts, the Gunpowder Plot in the Midlands, angels, and the history of Halloween. In 2015, I contributed to a discussion of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall on BBC Radio Ulster, and gave interviews on the Reformation to the Irish commercial channels Newstalk and Dublin City FM. In 2017, I was interviewed on Utah Public Radio, Dublin City FM and by the BBC about Martin Luther and the Reformation, and in 2018 I took part in the Wolfson History Prize Debate on Radio 3.

Television: in the early days of BBC 4, I presented a documentary entitled 'What If? The Reformation', positing an alternative history of England in which Henry VIII never broke with Rome. Subsequently, I have appeared in a couple of episodes of a series (2011-12) on Channel 4: Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters, on the American version of Who Do You Think You Are (with Josh Duhamel), and on 'Royal History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley'. I regularly act as a consultant to television producers and researchers on themes around the Reformation, Tudor England, and popular beliefs in the past.


Community and Schools

I am always happy to speak to school sixth-formers, and in recent years have given talks at Bristol Grammar School, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge, Kenilworth School, Leicester Grammar School, Lyng Hall Comprehensive, Coventry, Magdalene College School, Oxford, Oundle School, Portsmouth Grammar School, Trinity Catholic School, Leamington, Charterhouse School, Stowe School, Winchester College, Worcester Grammar School and Shrewsbury School. I am a regular lecturer at A Level history conferences organized by Premier Student Conferences, Keynote Education, and Sovereign Education.

In 2010 I co-ordinated the recording of a series of podcasts (involving three Warwick colleagues) for the Historical Association's 'Student Zone' web-pages on the theme of The Reformation. I have written essays on Cardinal Wolsey and Gunpowder Plot for the sixth-form journals History Review and Modern History Review.

Other community-oriented activities include regular lectures to local Historical Association branches: in Bristol, Norwich, Coventry, Nuneaton, Chichester (the John Fines Memorial Lecture 2011), Oxford (the Marjorie Reeves Memorial Lecture 2012), and Exeter (The Joyce Youings Memorial Lecture, 2019). I have also spoken to the Dugdale Society, and to an 'Open Museum' course at the National Maritime Museum. I have also addressed various church communities throughout England about aspects of (their) religious history.