What is a historical consultant? In my case it means that I have studied the details of a particular era to the point that I can advise quickly and clearly on all sorts of questions relating to the era. My particular specialty is the people and times of the Napoleonic period, and the breadth of my interest runs from what they wore under their magnificent clothes (not much, but elegantly) to what they discussed over coffee in the mornings (lots, and again, elegantly), via the big themes of battles, horses, politics, social changes and literature to the minutiae of how they cleaned and shaved themselves, exercised, poo-ed and ate.
When I’m not lurking in dusty archives, searching for historical tidbits, I’m often in residence in the V&A art library or a Florentine book hole, munching dry bread and coffee while I beaver away at the shelves or worry a manuscript into shape.
I’ve worked on numerous TV programmes, as researcher, art department advisor, script editor, on set and on call historical consultant and talk-to-camera boffin. Whether its freezing my articles off in a climate chamber to demonstrate the efficiency of Napoleonic uniform in extreme weather conditions, or spouting to camera while performing a mounted chase on horse-back, I’ve been there and broken myself doing it.
I write and have appeared in Soldat Napoleoniens magazine, First Empire, English heritage’s House magazine, the Napoleonic Association’s Adjutant, Rifleman, and others, and if you read any historical fiction, or non-fiction of the period, you have probably come across some of my research.
I began this on a professional basis after helping on TV shows like Brainiacs and Horrible Histories, and finding that all that time spent reading in libraries was actually useful to people, and since the TV people liked having me around, and paid me to be there, and I liked being around them and answering questions for their shows, it made more sense to do this than go into an office everyday. It probably helped that my hobbies included horses, historical martial arts (swords), and costuming, skills that are both useful for films and promote an understanding of the way production teams work.