I research and teach in the history of cities and of visual culture.
My art historical research is focused on late-medieval and Renaissance Italy. I am interested in non-naturalistic elements in Renaissance painting, and explored Duccio's high altarpiece for Siena cathedral in this light. I am currently working on the Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina, partly as a means to critique the periodisation of 'medieval' and 'Renaissance' art. These interests relate to the history of vision, and in this connection I have also published on Dante and sight. Dante remains a continuing interest. I researched and published with Jane Garnett a book about cults of images believed to be miraculous: Spectacular Miracles. Transforming Images in Italy from the Renaissance to the Present (Reaktion Books, 2013). We have also staged public exhibitions on this theme.
The other major theme in my work is medieval urban history. Here my particular interest is in how inhabitants of cities cope – with urban life, and more particularly with one another. This began with Medieval Westminster (OUP, 1989) and has continued in a series of studies of English and European guilds and confraternities. My book, The Art of Solidarity in the Middle Ages: Guilds in England 1250-1550 (OUP, 2015), is in part a response to current political and philosophical discussion about the relationship between the state, the individual citizen, and voluntary associations.
Starting as Scholar in Residence at Ertegun House in 2020, I am looking forward to working with graduate students from across the full range of Humanities disciplines, to supporting them in their academic work and helping them make the most of their time in Oxford, and to working with Mica Ertegun and the Ertegun Board to build on the excellent foundations laid in the first eight years of the Programme.