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My current research focuses on what has been called (historiographically speaking) Spain’s "Dark Ages", between 1665 and 1746, and – with reference to the Savoyard state in Italy - on state formation and the nature of the state in the early modern era. Issues related to these topics are important to some of the Honours modules I teach.

I am a member of the Scottish Centre for Global History.


I teach a wide range of modules on early modern Europe and more specifically on Spain and its empire at all undergraduate levels and at taught Masters level. I have also supervised PhD theses relating to the history of early modern Spain.

Undergraduate Modules:


My research focuses – chronologically - mainly on the early modern world. In terms of geography my interest centres on Spain and its empire. My most recent monograph (2016) was a study of the remarkable resurgence of Spain as a major European and imperial power under the first Bourbon king, Philip V (1700-1746) which with my earlier monograph (2006) on Charles II (1665-1746) represents an attempt to fill what was long been a gaping hole in Spanish historiography. But I also have a strong interest in Italy, in particuIar focused on the Savoyard state, i.e. the territories ruled by the house of Savoy, whose capital was Turin). As for themes, my main areas of expertise and interest include, state (and empire) formation, international relations (armies, diplomacy, war and peace) and the so-called “fiscal-military state” which weaves these two strands together: the nobility.

Current and long-term projects include:

The problem of Public and Private Debt in Early Modern Europe. Building on my earlier (published) work on the “fiscal-military state”, I explore the extent to which there existed alongside the funded public debt a large, unfunded public debt (essentially unpaid salaries, wages, bills of all types) which effectively meant that large numbers of individuals working for and/or supplying services to the state were owed money by the latter and the extent to which individuals, families and communities and their own networks of credit were effectively underpinning the “fiscal-military state”.

Arising too out of my “fiscal-military state” work, I research the role of foreign diplomats as observers of, commentators on and transmitters of information concerning the construction of that type of state. I intend to look at British and Savoyard diplomatic correspondence in respect of developments in eighteenth century Spain, British and Spanish in respect of the eighteenth century Savoyard state, and Spanish and Savoyard in respect of eighteenth century British developments.

Again building on my own earlier research, this time on Spain, I want to explore the persistence of older constitutional forms in eighteenth century Spain despite (a) the suppression of the distinctive laws (fueros) of the crown of Aragon from 1707 onwards and (b) the almost complete disappearance after 1665 of formal meetings of the Cortes.

Other current research includes the extent to which the remarkable growth of a royal navy in Spain in the eighteenth century resulted in the emergence of a new social group, naval officers, and what this tells us about state and society in Bourbon Spain.  

Another, but longer-term research project relates to the fate of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in the early modern era. I want to explore the impact on numbers of pilgrims, on the great network that made up or serviced that pilgrimage and on the economy of the towns of northern Spain of Reformation, Counter-Reformation and Enlightenment.

Even longer-term research projects are major studies of (a) “The Decline of Spain” and (b) “The construction and collapse of an ancient regime polity: Spain c. 1470-1840”.

Suggested areas for postgraduate supervision

  • Early Modern Spain
  • Early Modern Italy, especially Spanish Italy and the Duchy of Savoy
  • State Formation in Europe
  • Identity in Europe
  • The European Nobility/-ies
  • War, Diplomacy and International Relations in Europe
  • Crime, Punishment and Military Justice in Europe
  • Espionage and Intelligence in Europe

AHRC funded studentships are available in my research area - more details about scholarships, bursaries and funding at Dundee


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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