I was born in England, and educated in Amsterdam, York, and Oxford. My historical interests have been similarly varied - for a while I was fascinated by the political history of the early twentieth century, then by the religious and social history of medieval peasants. My published work is the outcome of a series of happy accidents.

I initially embarked on the research that led to The Origins of Sex out of sheer curiosity about the sexual mores of men and women in the past, and why they had changed so much and so suddenly in the eighteenth century. I thought it would be a brief project, but the more I pursued it the bigger the subject revealed itself to be. And the more amazing material I uncovered in archives, libraries, and art galleries around the world, the more determined I became to do justice to what turned out to be one of the great untold stories about the origins of our modern condition.

Writing big books takes time and congenial intellectual surroundings, and I have been extremely lucky to have these. Before joining the Princeton History Department I spent many years on the faculty at Oxford, where I am now a life fellow of All Souls College and of Exeter College. My current projects include a history of free speech, a brief history of the signature, and a global history of English.