I was born and educated in Wimbledon, the eldest of five children. My father gave me a Roman coin when I was about twelve and it was a decisive experience: I became transfixed by the past. I went to the Universities of Durham and London, studying History and Archaeology, and took an MA in Archaeology at University College, London. I actually worked for the BBC for most of the time between 1981 and 1999 but had started writing books on Roman Britain for Batsford by the late 1980s. In 1998 the Channel 4 TV series Time Team asked me to take part in a film at Papcastle and I soon became a regular participant as 'Roman expert' between then and 2011. I also took part in a number of other TV programmes along the way - so I left the BBC in 1999 and worked freelance as a writer and broadcaster until 2007.It was a privilege to be elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries along the way.
Time Team was a marvellous opportunity. I got to meet all sorts of interesting people and visit places I would never have got to otherwise. The show has been transmitted all over the world and I frequently get enquiries from across the globe. The most memorable dig of all was in the summer of 1999 when we excavated a WW2 Spitfire that had crashed in France on 23 May 1940. As a result I took a pilot's licence to find out what it was like to be in charge of an aircraft for myself.
In 2007-8 I decided to retrain as a schoolteacher, wanting to do something different. Since then I have taught History and Classical Civilization at a girls' grammar school (now an academy) in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. It's been a very invigorating (if sometimes frustrating) experience and one of my most recent titles, Cities of Roman Italy, was written as a textbook for the Classical Civiization course. A number of my students have gone on to study Classics, Archaeology or Ancient History and I'm pleased to have played a small part in their decision to pursue those routes. In 2016 I gave up teaching to return to freelance work and independent research.
I have numerous historical interests including collecting coins and travelling widely, especially in Italy, the United States and Australia. I give lectures occasionally, most recently to the Roman Archaeology Group at the University of Western Australia in Perth.
One of my great privileges is that being independent, as opposed to be tied to a university position, means I can pursue my interests in any direction they take me. Although I have mainly written on the Romans, I have also been able to publish books on the seventeenth-century diarists John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.
My wife Rosemary (with whom I was at university) been married for over thirty years and I'm very grateful for the fact that she shares many of my interests and has been prepared to tolerate endless treks across Rome, Pompeii, US Civil War battlefields, and most recently a flight out to the Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton in Western Australia to see the 1629 wreck site of the Batavia, the tale of which is one of the most astonishing historical yarns of all time.
We have four adult sons and a granddaughter.
Since 2014 I have been writing for Yale University Press, producing The Real Lives of Roman Britain and Praetorian. The third book, Domina, is now being prepared (2017).