Helen much prefers talking about her books to talking about herself. She is from Plymouth originally, but was brought up in Hong Kong and other places, which gave her a curiosity about different world-views and cultures. Her love of history started at a young age watching Blue Peter special assignments – her favourites were the life of Marie Antoinette and the story of how the potato reached Britain from the New World. She read history at Durham University and her doctoral research was at Jesus College, Cambridge, where she wrote her thesis on the history of coffee houses and the earliest London newspapers. She now lectures at Newcastle University, where she specialises in teaching the history of Britain between the ages of Shakespeare and Queen Victoria. Helen lives in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria with her partner and their Border terrier. She is interested in pretty much everything, but her favourite historic period is the eighteenth century. She is motivated to write history books that link contemporary life and social politics to the past, and that place British history in a wider global context. Her next book, Orphans of Empire, is on the fate of the Foundling Hospital children – examining the question of whether an early experiment in the idea of a ‘Big Society’ actually worked.