Hi! I'm a writer, researcher and historian based in London. I contribute regularly to a range of history and arts magazines, as well as writing for clients including the National Archives and the BBC.
The Suffragettes in Hyde Park
The peaceful vistas of Hyde Park offer an inner-city sanctuary where visitors can slow down and listen to the quiet hum of nature. This sense of tranquillity, though, obscures a very radical history. For generations, the park has been a hotbed of political activity.
In this post to mark Women’s History Month, we explore the history of suffragette rallies in Hyde Park.
Making the census happen
The census is an ambitious data-gathering exercise that aims to record details about the population as a whole. This creates a huge quantity of information that has to be collected, sorted and studied. But how, exactly, does this happen?
Over the years, the census and its systems have changed and evolved. From the Victorian clerks who waded through information manually to modern computers that process data at the click of a button – in this post, we look at how new ideas and new technology ha...
Celebrating 50 Years of Gay Pride at Hyde Park, London
Today marks 50 years since the first ever Gay Pride march in London. On 1st July 1972, a crowd of a few hundred people marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, making a stand for gay people everywhere.
This landmark event in LGBTQ+ history also forms an important chapter in the story of Speakers’ Corner – an area of Hyde Park that has been used by protestors since the mid 1800s.
From suffragettes and socialists to anti-war protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement, Speakers’ Corner ha...
A history of Valentine’s Day celebrations – from fertility festivals to the first cards
When was Valentine’s Day first celebrated?
From 13 to 15 February, ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. Many believe that the origins of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to this ancient fertility festival. To mark the occasion Roman men sacrificed goats before using their skins to whip women in the belief that this would make them fertile. Some historians have argued that at the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared 14 February to be Valentine’s Day in an attempt to...
The Victorian and Edwardian seaside
This summer, many of us will be heading to the coast for holidays nearer home – just like the Victorians and Edwardians. Dr Anna Maria Barry takes a trip back in time and explores a golden age of seaside excursions.
In the 19th century, the British seaside experienced an explosion in popularity. From Blackpool to Brighton, Brits flocked to coastal resorts. The rapid expansion of the rail network had made the seaside more accessible, which was convenient as people had more leisure time to fill...
Ancestors at work: public houses
A guide to tracing ancestors who worked as publicans.
The supernatural interests of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
On a July evening in 1930, 10,000 people crowded into London’s Royal Albert Hall, hoping to catch a glimpse of their hero, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and perhaps even hear him speak. Sure enough, the celebrated author turned up right on time. Dressed in an evening suit, the man behind the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon took his seat on stage and began to talk.
But there was something very strange about Doyle – he was dead.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Musical Fight for Civil Rights
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875. His parents were Alice Hare Martin and Dr Daniel Taylor. Whilst his mother was British, his father hailed from Freetown in Sierra Leone. Like many of his fellow countrymen, Dr Taylor had come to Britain in pursuit of an education. He met Alice in London, but appears to have returned to West Africa without knowing that she was pregnant. He would never meet his son.
The weird and wonderful world of Victorian entertainment
A quick flick through any Victorian newspaper will reveal that a dizzying and diverse range of entertainments were on offer in 19th-century Britain. The thriving Victorian entertainment industry had developed in response to vast social and cultural changes. The industrial revolution had increased urban populations, while the expanding middle class was newly rich in both time and money. In addition, the growth of the railways meant that travel to holiday resorts and cultural centres became eas...
Fake Views: Victorian Spirit Photography
The 19th-century craze for spiritualism ‘resurrected’ the dead through manipulated photography, a practice that boomed with the trauma caused by war – though it was not without its sceptics.
The fact that photographs can be manipulated is familiar and everyday to us now, but, when photography was in its infancy, this revolutionary new technology appeared almost magical to some. Writing in 1840, shortly after Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre revealed his pioneering photographic process to the worl...
Counting the people: The census through time
This year, when you completed your 2021 census, you were participating in an ambitious, information-gathering exercise with a very long history. Since 1801, an official census has been taken every 10 years, with only a few exceptions. In this article we look at the history of the census in Britain and how it has changed over time.
The case of the philandering opera singer
An article on John Braham, the Georgian opera singer who was taken to court for his scandalous affair with a married woman.
Anna Maria Barry on Billie Holiday's Autobiography
Anna Maria Barry, doctoral candidate in music, Oxford Brookes University, is reading Lady Sings the Blues (Harlem Moon Classics, 2006) by Billie Holiday with William Duffy. “This year marks 100 years since Holiday’s birth. Although her co-authored memoir is infamous for inaccuracies, its accounts of her struggles with poverty, addiction and racism are brutally honest. Her voice sings through every page, and is remarkable for its defiance and lack of self-pity. This book offers a fascinating i...
Castrated Georgian opera stars
It is the autumn of 1734 and the King’s Theatre on London’s Haymarket is packed to the rafters. As the last notes of the opera fade away, the fashionable audience erupts into frantic applause. The star singer steps forward to take a bow, when from the pit a well-heeled woman screams out: “One God! One Farinelli!”
Farinelli was the stage name of Carlo Broschi (1705–82), the most famous opera singer of the 18th century. He was something akin to a modern-day rock star. He commanded huge fees, au...