Dr Todd Gray
Honorary Research Fellow
My core interest has been identifying how Devon wavered from the national narrative through an approach centred on the use of manuscripts held in regional, national and foreign archives. Layers of concentrated study have made it possible to cross periods and engage in diverse topics. Nearly every project informs and builds upon the others and has culminated in a book. Thirteen editions of documents reflect my documentary fascination.
Projects are often in partnership with local government (Devon County Council, Exeter City Council), public bodies (English Heritage) or societies and charities (Devon & Cornwall Record Society, Devonshire Association, Devon Gardens Trust, Pilgrim Trust). My most recent work, (Barnstaple, 1640-1670), reflects this collaborative approach.
I have introduced topics locally and on one occasion nationally (Looting in Wartime Britain). Some have not only also been the first county study of their kind but ‘history that hurts’ (Blackshirts & Devon and Not One of Us). Other work has challenged different audiences for contradictory reasons (Devon & the Slave Trade and Devon’s Last Slave-Owners). I feel an obligation not to shy away from difficult subject matter despite audiences unaccustomed to evidence-based historical research being confounded by the modifying or even demolishing of assumptions and myths. There have been some striking discoveries (Early Stuart Mariners & Shipping, The Lost Chronicle of Barnstaple, The Exeter Cloth Dispatch Book, William Birchynshaw’s Map of Exeter, Barnstaple 1640-1670, and Uncle Tom Cobley & All) and extensive fieldwork has revealed previously unconsidered physical evidence (Devon’s Ancient Bench Ends, Lest Devon Forgets).
I enjoy reaching beyond academia and some research originated from public engagements such as that around the Exeter Cathedral Yard fire of 2016 (St Martin’s Island). Many other projects stem from longstanding interests (The Art of the Devon Garden, Strumpets & Ninnycocks).