Welcome to my website and I hope you will find something of interest.
As long as I can remember I have been interested in history and the religions of the world. This led me to studying both topics for my first degree and later a doctorate. For many years I worked with the Church of England in the capacity of Adviser in Inter Religious Relations. During this time I was also involved in a youth exchange programme with young Jews, Christians and Muslims in East London and Israel and in recognition of this I was made a Lay Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral.
Since then I have given many lectures on cruise ships and around the United Kingdom on the general theme of history. I am particularly interested in how historical events are influenced by religious ideas and how some of these themes are still with us today.
I have often been asked, when giving a lecture, if I have ever written anything. Until recently I haven’t had the opportunity, but now I have started to write up some of these lectures in book form.
Occasionally I will post a short article on this site. These will refer to a current event that relates to either the lectures or books. If you would like to comment on any of these posts, please use the contact form.
Please take a look.
The first book in the “In Brief” Books for Busy People series was From the Medes to the Mullahs: a history of Iran. It was published in 2013. Since that time there have been many changes not only in Iran, but also in the region generally. Furthermore, the election of Donald Trump as President Elect of the United States will undoubtedly affect relations between Iran and the West.
The book has therefore been updated and includes a revised Epilogue which follows:
On the 15th June 2013 Hassan Rouhani was democratically elected President of Iran, so replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who is considered to be a ‘moderate’ compared to his predecessor, is a cleric who studied at the prestigious seminary at Qom in Iran and later at Glasgow Caledonian University. He was previously Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and also led the Iranian team in negotiations with the UK, France and Germany on Iran’s nuclear programme.
CARAVAGGIO: Rogue and Genius
Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, better known as Caravaggio, was born in Northern Italy in 1571. After studying art in Milan he travelled to Rome where he became a renowned Baroque painter receiving commissions from the Papal court and Roman aristocracy.
There was, however, a darker side to his life that resulted in him becoming a fugitive. While still on the run from the police and Papal authorities, he died mysteriously on a deserted beach at the age of 39. This talk tells his story.
THE CRUSADES: A Holy War for a Holy Land
In 1095 the Pope called on the Kings and people of Western Europe to join a Crusade aimed at liberating the city of Jerusalem from the ‘barbaric Turks’. Between 1096 and 1204 four crusading armies travelled across Europe, through Anatolia, towards the Holy Land.
This talk begins by looking at the context of the Middle East at the time. It then goes on to tell of the people who joined the Crusades and why they went. The final part looks at the repercussions of the Crusades for Christian/Muslim relations today
THE MILITARY KNIGHTS: The Military Order of St John and the Knights Templar
At the time of the First Crusade in 1099, two powerful military orders were founded in Jerusalem. The Knights of St John, originally known as the Knights Hospitaller, were established in order to care for the sick and injured. The Knights Templar were given the role of protecting Christian pilgrims and the people of the Crusader States from the Muslims.
The Knights Templar were disbanded in the early 14th Century while the Knights of St John are still a world-wide organisation. This talk traces the history of the two Orders.
THE LEGACY OF ABRAHAM
We look at the story of Abraham, who is said to have lived around 1800 BCE. He is considered by Jews, Christians and Muslims to be the first Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; hence these Faiths are often referred to as the ‘Abrahamic Faiths’.
Whether or not Abraham really did exist, his legacy through literature and painting has survived down the centuries. This talk illustrates some of the greatest works of art depicting the life of Abraham.
EPILOGUE TO THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE:
Today the hot spot of unrest is Syria, the repercussions of which are reverberating across the Western world. From the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in early 2011, it has been estimated that by February 2016, the total number of deaths due to the war stood at some 470,000 (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). Internally displaced persons are given as over 7,600,000 with over 4,000,000 people made refugees (United Nations Commissioner for Refugees).
For over 30 years Iran has been living in exile from the rest of the world, a pariah state accused of promoting terrorism and building a nuclear bomb. It all started with the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the subsequent hostage crisis when over 60 US diplomats and citizens were held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran for 444 days.
Two recent reviews from verified purchasers on Amazon for Paul of Tarsus: a First Century Radical
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Every time we hear that another young girl has left the security of her home to join the Islamic State we ask ‘Why?’ What is the attraction of this barbaric terrorist group that draws girls, and even young mothers with their children, from countries across Europe, North America, Russia, the Balkans and even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf?
This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand the complex world of militant Islam. It asks what is the justification, for example, for the barbaric executions of innocent people by the so-called ‘Islamic State’? On what grounds can this group claim authority to establish a ‘caliphate’ covering territory in Northern Iraq and Syria?
For several days the fate of two hostages was held in the balance while the world waited to see if ISIS would release them in exchange for a woman jihadist held in a Jordanian jail.
On the 24th November Home Secretary Theresa May announced new legislation aimed at protecting the United Kingdom against terrorism.
When the Syrian uprising in the spring of 2011 broke out into civil war between Government forces and the ‘rebels’, the United States, Britain an other European countries came out in support of the opposition groups in their struggle to topple President Bashar al Assad. It quickly became apparent that the ‘rebels’ were made up of disparate groups, each with its own agenda.
The militant group that calls itself ‘Islamic State’, otherwise known as IS, is terrorising innocent people across Syria and Iraq and threatening the stability of the region. The group professes to be following a ‘pure’ form of Islam that is founded upon the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad and the early generations of Muslims.
In a forthcoming book, Making Sense of Militant Islam, I explore the roots of this extremism starting from the early Islamic period through to today.
The following is a short excerpt from Chapter One that looks at the importance of Hadith (sayings of the Prophet). My suggestion is that groups such as IS lift selective texts from the Qur’an to justify their brutal acts without reference to the historical context, the Hadith or a long tradition of Islamic scholarship.
Our politicians frequently speak of ‘British Values’, a phrase that has always puzzled me. What exactly are ‘British Values’ and how do these differ from those that most nations aspire to?
Two incidents have occurred in recent weeks that have prompted me to ask the question again.