This week our Q&A guest is Professor Kenneth Fincham who teaches early modern history in the School of History and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Here he discusses his interests in early modern history and his latest research.
What’s your role in the School of History?
I teach history, mostly British, for the period 1500-1700.
What led you to become a historian of Early Modern Britain?
There’s lots of debate and argument among historians, which keeps research interesting and edgy, and makes teaching lively.
What are you currently researching?
The Church of England was dismantled in the 1640s, and I’m working on the way it comes back into power on the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Charles II is often seen as a merry monarch, too busy with his mistresses to care much about policy and statecraft, but I think he was absolutely central to the religious settlement. A man of great charm too, which he used to good effect in politics (and not just on his mistresses).
What’s the best book in your field you’ve read recently?
J. H. Elliott, Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion (2018), which actually ranges from 15th to 21st centuries and is a wonderful exercise in comparative history.
What’s the most common misconception about your field?
That England was where it was at! No: a second rate nation, on the fringes of Europe, but it does begin to take on a global role and significance by 1700.
What advice would you give a budding historian?
Keep your interests broad and sample lots of different types of history – by approach, geography and period.
What’s your favourite module to teach?
‘Elizabethan Court and Realm’. Elizabeth I somehow survived times of very great crisis and instability and yet created a myth of invincibility which most people still accept.
What’s the best part about being a member of the University of Kent’s School of History?
Lots of keen students, and colleagues with a wide range of interests and outlooks.
If you could have dinner with one person from the past, who would it be?
Two please – hosting Elizabeth I meeting Margaret Thatcher.