My interests are mostly concentrated in the 17th century: antiquarian studies in the 17th century, ecclesiastical history, and court culture under the early Stuarts. The visual arts and their interactions have always had a strong attraction for me. Architecture heads the list, and every phase of architecture in the 17th century speaks to me. Also, English painting throughout the century, and engraving, with particular attention to Inigo Jones, Van Dyck and Wenceslaus Hollar. I like to write about what I have seen, and many years of purposeful travel around the UK have given me a detailed acquaintance with the buildings of this country.
17th century poetry, particularly from 1600-1660, is a field in which I have done a good deal of research. Milton is a major interest of mine: I was the organiser of the International Milton Symposium at York in July 1999.
I also have a foot in the Victorian camp: Victorian poetry, the social critics, and the Pre-Raphaelites are all subjects I have written on.
Having written a number of books about the cultural history of the seventeenth century, including The Golden Age Restor’d: the Culture of the Stuart Court, (Manchester, 1981) and The Seventeenth Century (Longman, 1989), I have in recent years turned to the study of the antiquaries of early modern England. This interest was most fully displayed in The Trophies of Time ( Oxford, 1995), and it continues with a study of William Dugdale (forthcoming in a volume from Boydell & Brewer) and Thomas Browne as antiquary (in a collection soon to be published by OUP). I have also contributed the early sections of the catalogue of the exhibition about the Society of Antiquaries currently at the Royal Academy, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain.
Figures on the seventeenth-century scene who particularly appeal to me include Milton (I organised the 1999 International Milton Symposium at York), Inigo Jones, Van Dyck, and the etcher Wenceslaus Hollar.
My most recent book is on the culture of the Laudian Church, Glory, Laud and Honour: the Arts of the Anglican Counter-Reformation (Boydell & Brewer, 2006). This deals with the revival of the religious arts in England, for the first time since the Reformation, as a result of the High Church movement associated with Archbishop Laud in the 1620s and 1630s. It is an attempt to reconstruct a phase of English art that has been largely overlooked, because so much of the art that was produced then was destroyed in the Civil Wars. I review the achievements of this time in church architecture, painted glass, sculpture, religious painting, sacred music and devotional literature.
Both Glory, Laud and Honour and The Trophies of Time are being reprinted in paperback.
I also have strong interests in Victorian cultural life, and am active in Ruskin’s Guild of St George, the Pugin Society, and the Sydney Smith Association. In addition, I am much involved in the activities of the York Bibliographical Society.
My current research is on the Great Tew Circle, the Caroline think-tank presided over by Lord Falkland in the 1630s.
I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. I'm a leading member - usually Chairman - of the York Bibliographical Society. Also involved with the Laurence Sterne Trust, the Sydney Smith Association, Ruskin's Guild of St George, the Pugin Society and the Victorian Society.
Until recently I was the general editor of the series "Studies in Renaissance Literature", published by Boydell and Brewer. I was an Associate Editor for the New Dictionary of National Biography, with responsibility for literary figures 1600-1650.
I am on the editorial board of Early Modern Literary Studies, Renaissance Forum, and True Principles, the journal of the Pugin Society.