Historical Writing

For many years, I researched my family history, finding out details of direct ancestors in both my parents' families, going back into the seventeenth century. What interested me most was not their names, dates of birth etc, but what I found out about the way in which ordinary people lived.

I wrote up what I learnt about my mother's family, the Ashtons. This was published by Alan Sutton Publishing in 1995 as English Roots - a family history. My aim was to provide a clear and detailed description of everyday life, from the 1630s until the present day. English Roots examines the social and economic history of those years, as seen through the eyes of ten generations of one family. For over two centuries, the Ashtons lived in hamlets in the Derbyshire Peak District. They were small-scale farmers, but were also engaged in spinning and weaving, and lead mining. In the 1830s, during the Industrial Revolution, they moved to Manchester .

English Roots covers many subjects, starting with Thomas Ashton's service in the Civil War and the persecution of Catholics during the middle of the seventeenth century. Some features, such as the barmote courts, which regulated lead mining, are peculiar to Derbyshire, but many aspects of their everyday existence mirror the lives of the vast majority of ordinary English people through the ages. 

By clicking on these links, you can read the Preface, kindly written by David Hey, Professor of Local and Family History at the University of Sheffield and the Introduction. You can also read my description of two cases brought by Ashtons in the barmote (lead mining) courts - An Eighteenth Century Fast Track Claim.

You can also read a selection of reviews and buy copies of English Roots by emailing me.


In August 2022, The Devon Family Historian published my article A Life that Changed Track; or How the Track Changed Life describing how the railways revolutionised the life of three generations of my ancestors.  Click here to read the article.


More recently my research and writing has morphed into a project exploring how The Rambopata Rubber Syndicate, a British registered rubber company, enslaved indigenous people in Southern Peru in the early Twentieth Century.  The brutality I have discovered is truly appalling, especially given that in historical terms, it was comparatively recent.  Different aspects of my research have been published in La Revista de Historia de América, the journal of the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History, part of the Organization of American States, and in the blog of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.  Click here for the Revista article and here for the Bodleian Blog.