Professor Peter Gaunt

Professor of Early Modern History

(E-mail: p.gaunt@chester.ac.uk)

 

Following a first degree in History (though with a significant Archaeology content), I went on to research and write a doctorate at the University of Exeter on the central government of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate, 1653-58, supervised by Professor Ivan Roots.

Qualifications

BA (Wales), PhD (Exeter), FRHistS

Overview

During the 1980s I held a succession of mainly non-academic posts, including work on a range of archaeological excavations and surveys, as an architectural historian for English Heritage working mainly on Hampton Court Palace and as a researcher/writer for the parks and palaces division of the Department of the Environment working mainly on the Tower of London and Kensington Palace and Gardens. I also undertook a range of free-lance commissions, including work on guide books, on picture research and captioning, and on a number of exhibitions and interpretative strategies.

Although in the main I was working outside academia at this stage, I continued to research and write and began to have scholarly material published. This process was aided by a year spent living and working at Wellington in New Zealand in the mid 1980s as a post-doctoral fellow of the Victoria University of Wellington. I returned full time to academic work in the late 1980s and since then have held teaching posts at the University of Wales (Swansea), the University of London (Royal Holloway) and the University of Chester.

My interests range over history and archaeology, especially visiting castles, churches and chapels. I also enjoy second hand bookshops and acquiring (too many) second hand books, walking and photography.

Teaching

I contribute to the teaching of the following undergraduate modules:

  • Europe and the Wider World: Turning Points in History, 1000-2000
  • The Shaping of Britain
  • Debates in History: Witchcraft and the Witch-hunt in Early Modern Europe
  • Europe in the Age of Absolutism and Enlightened Absolutism
  • The English Revolution: Causes, Course and Consequences of the English Revolution

 I contribute to the following postgraduate modules:

  • The Theory and History of Western Warfare
  • Research Skills and Methodology in Military History
  • Defending the Realm: Fortifications in the Landscape
  • The British Wars, 1637-1651
  • Research Dissertation

Although I have quite a varied background in and experience of both archaeology and history, including work on medieval secular and ecclesiastical buildings and on post-medieval royal palaces, my principal research interests lie in the field of early modern England/Britain. I specialise in the history of the English civil war and the life and times of Oliver Cromwell, embracing aspects of military, political and constitutional history. I have written or edited thirteen books and over forty articles or chapters, including histories of the civil war in England, Wales and Britain as a whole and two biographies of Oliver Cromwell.

Research

As indicated in the section on recent publications below, I have undertaken extensive research in the area of the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell and central government during the 1650s.

Published work


Recent publications include:

The English Civil Wars, 1642-51 (Osprey, 2003); Oliver Cromwell in the British Library Historic Lives series (British Library and New York UP, 2004); a clutch of biographies, including detailed new studies of Richard and Henry Cromwell, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford UP, 2004); ‘1655: year of crisis’ in Cromwelliana, series II, no. 3 (2006); ‘Oliver Cromwell’s last battle’ in Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 3rd series, vol. 20 (2006); “‘To create a little world out of chaos’: The Protectoral Ordinances of 1653-54 Reconsidered’ in Patrick Little (ed.), The Cromwellian Protectorate (Boydell, 2007); a reference group article on the Protectoral Council and Councillors for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2007); a full-length scholarly edition of The Correspondence of Henry Cromwell, 1655-59 for the Royal Historical Society Camden series (Cambridge UP, 2007); Four churches and a river: the civil wars in Cheshire’ in Cromwelliana, series II, no. 5 (2008); ‘“A door of hope is open”: the achievements and legacy of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate’ in Cromwelliana, series II, no. 6 (2009); ‘The reputation of Oliver Cromwell in the nineteenth century’ in Parliamentary History, 28 (2009); ‘Nehemiah Wharton, parliamentarian, and Richard Atkyns, royalist’ in R. O’Neill (ed.), I Am Soldier (Osprey, 2009); ‘The relationship between Richard Cromwell and his younger brother Henry’ in Cromwelliana, series II, no. 7 (2010); jointly with Professor Barry Coward English Historical Documents, 1603-1660 (Routledge, 2010); ‘A Cromwellian landscape? Oliver Cromwell and the urban and rural environment of Britain’ in J. A. Mills (ed.), Cromwell’s Legacy (Manchester UP, 2012); ‘Oliver Cromwell’s last battle’ in D. Hallmark (ed.), The Battle of Worcester, 1651 (The Battle of Worcester Society, 2012); Cromwell Four Centuries On (The Cromwell Association, 2013), in which two of my own articles on 'Learning the ropes in "His Own Fields": Cromwell's early sieges in the East Midlands' and 'The battle of Dunbar and Cromwell's Scottish campaign' also appear; 'Cromwell and the historians, from Abbott to the present day' in Cromwelliana, series III, no. 2 (2013); and 'Writings and sources XV: New light on what Cromwell said to the officers on 27 February 1657' in Cromwelliana, series II, no. 2 (2013); The English Civil War, A Military History. (I.B. Tauris, 2014); ‘ “…looked on as a wonder, that never beheld his enemies in the face but returned from them crowned always with renown and honour…’: Cromwell’s contribution to parliament’s military victories, 1642-51’, Cromwelliana, series III, no. 4 (2015)

Current research and forthcoming publications:

I am part of a major team-based project, led by Professor John Morrill of the University of Cambridge, to produce a completely new edition of Oliver Cromwell’s writings and speeches, to be published by Oxford UP. As well as being one of the editorial team, I am joint editor (with Professor Laura Knoppers, both of us acting alongside Professor John Morrill as general editor of the whole project) of the two companion volumes of around 126,000 words each, with the working titles Oliver Cromwell in History and Historiography and Understanding the Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell.

I am also president of The Cromwell Association, the academic and historical society which works to promote the study and understanding of the life and times of Oliver Cromwell and the civil war era; and past editor of the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Cromwelliana and Cheshire History.

I have a chapter on the battle of Middlewich of March 1643 in a volume of new work on the civil due out before the end of 2016. I am currently working on two books, to be completed during 2016, the first (as sole author), probably titled The Metamorphosis of War, will be a study of the personal experience of civil war as seen in surviving first person accounts, the second (revising and updating the work of the late Professor Barry Coward) will be a new and revised edition of The Stuart Age.

 

Research experience:

I have served as principal or co-supervisor of eight doctoral theses, all successfully completed and awarded: on the politics, administration and culture of Chester during the long eighteenth century, on the post-medieval landscape of south-west Cheshire, on the philanthropic work of the Macclesfield silk manufacturers from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, on the development and history of a parish in northern Shropshire; on the structure, role and significance of spiral stairs in medieval stone castles; on the parliamentarian and royalist war efforts in civil war Shropshire; on the early castles of the earldom of Cheshire; and on the background to and nature of the Boston Revolt of 1689.  I am currently co-supervising five further MPhil/PhD theses, on the civil war in and around Shropshire, on the role of artillery in civil war siege operations, on the north-western association of Cheshire Staffordshire and Lancashire in the rule of the Major-Generals, 1655-57, on law and order in medieval Cheshire and on the Forest of Macclesfield in the early seventeenth century.  As an accredited supervisor I also have some involvement with a further clutch of current History and Archaeology doctoral projects. As Director of Studies of the former MA programme in ‘Landscape, Heritage and Society’ and as a tutor on the MA programme in ‘Military History', I have supervised over 40 MA dissertations to successful completion.