I've spent the last several years developing a diverse research, writing and teaching profile. Below, you'll find information about my research, publishing and teaching activities.
I'm primarily, I'd say, a 'cultural historian', since what connects the various specific projects I'm working on is an interest in what people thought: about themselves, about what they were doing, and about the world around them. On the other hand, I feel uncomfortable with the tendency, too often, to treat 'culture' as a collection of free-floating, endlessly changeable and essentially textual social constructions.
Hence, my interest in connecting 'culture' to both social context and human psychology. In the former case, my influences include the social historians of 'experience' such as E.P. Thompson (and the work he inspired) and historical sociologists such as Norbert Elias (ditto). In the latter, I'm interested in both understanding how the mind works (so, neuroscience and cognitive psychology above all) as well as why it does so (which brings us to evolutionary psychology).
More concretely, I currently have three main areas of research.
Departmental webpage, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (where I am employed).
Departmental webpage, The Open University (where I am an Honorary Visiting Fellow).
Papers Presented and Talks
From reviews of The Most Remarkable Woman in England (2012):
'A fascinating analysis of one woman's domestic disaster, the power of the press and public opinion. Loved it!' -- Jenni Murray, host of BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" (You can listen to my Woman's Hour interview here.)
A 'splendid piece of historical detective work...immaculately researched, fluently written and utterly compelling'. -- Dominic Sandbrook, Literary Review (Dec 2012-Jan 2013)
'Sometimes life is better than fiction. Is there any novelist who could
have got this extraordinary story so perfectly right, inventing it: the
violence at the heart of it, the suspense, the succession of
revelations, the passions so raw and inchoate that they have a mythic
force? And then there's the grand sweep of the narrative, beginning in
the bleak poverty of an obscure cottage in the Forest of Dean, acted out finally on the national stage. [...] John Carter Wood's book about the Pace trial works
because of his sober and scrupulous assembly of the evidence, quoting
the words that were spoken and written at the time so we can feel the
textures of the material for ourselves -- the found poetry of precise
reportage.' -- Tessa Hadley, in The Guardian (26 October 2012)
'A fascinating real-life murder story.' -- Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, on Twitter (3 October 2012).
'Just for once, my crime book of the year isn't a novel, but a factual account. In 1928, a quarryman called Harry Pace died of arsenic poisoning and his wife, Beatrice, was tried for his murder. John Carter Wood's account of the case and trial has it all: suspense; surprise; and a searing account of one woman's life, marriage, and journey from poverty and obscurity to celebrity and notoriety. Wood is brave enough to allow much of an incredible story to tell itself through newspaper accounts, letters and Beatrice’s private papers, and the book is all the richer for it. And because it’s a true story, he has no choice but to include some of the more incredible plot elements that a novelist might lose courage with! A fascinating snapshot of interwar England, brilliantly brought to life.' -- Nicola Upson, Faber website
'This book will be an invaluable aid to those interested in the history of criminal justice and British society in the 1920s.' -- June Purvis, in the Times Higher Education (22 November 2012)
'John Carter Wood writes with verve and elegance, weaving insights into
the broader social ramifications of this trial without losing the thread
courtroom drama that makes the book such a compelling read. He has also
done much original research, clearing up questions that previous
accounts left unanswered and providing dozens of illustrations, some of
which have come from previously-inaccessible private archives. The
result is a vivid portrayal not just of one woman's fate, but of a
society in transition. Highly recommended!' -- Andrew Hammel, Amazon.co.uk review
'This is history as murder-mystery. John Carter Wood tells a spellbinding story of murder, using the trials of the accused (Beatrice Pace) to reflect the nature of celebrity culture, the legal system, and gender relations in 1920s Britain. The fundamental question remains: did Beatrice Pace kill her husband? You will have to read the book to find out!' -- Joanna Bourke, Professor of History, Birkbeck College
'The trial of Beatrice Pace was one of the most sensational news stories in inter-war Britain. In this thoroughly researched and clearly-argued study, John Carter Wood is not solely concerned with the usual question of whether or not Mrs Pace was guilty. Rather he also focuses on the period's celebrity culture, the role of the press, the development of public interest and the police. In so doing, he has produced a model for modern social and cultural historians.' -- Clive Emsley, Professor Emeritus, Open University
'[This book] provides the closest and most careful analysis yet done of just what violence meant in the everyday life of ordinary Englishmen for much of the nineteenth century. Wood has added a new dimension to our understanding of the history of violence and of the textures and processes of nineteenth-century English society.'
--Martin Wiener, Rice University, Journal of Social History
'The popular success of Sarah Wise's The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s (London, 2004) demonstrates that there is considerable interest in the more nefarious aspects of nineteenth-century English life. J. Carter Wood's book demonstrates that there are also social and cultural historians who are not afraid to contextualize and probe the stated understandings of that era. The period 1820-70, although much researched and enriched with primary sources, is a difficult and ambiguous period on which to write well. Wood writes well and he does us all a service when he reminds us that as far as the narrative on the history of violence is concerned, the past has only just happened.' --Jack Anderson, Queens University Belfast, British Journal of Criminology
'In particular, Wood makes fascinating use of trial depositions to reconstruct the elaborate rituals surrounding early nineteenth-century plebeian street fights. In doing so, he brilliantly demonstrates how the conduct of such fights often closely mirrored the rituals of prize-fighting.'
--Jon Lawrence, University of Cambridge, Journal of Victorian Culture
'Some historians of the eighteenth century and earlier may dispute the contention that violence as a social issue was an invention of the early nineteenth century. In the same vein, it might be argued that the impact of civilization has been overdrawn. Aside from this, Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-century England successfully crystallizes something essential about the nineteenth century. The complexity of the hypothesis and analysis will make this a difficult read for most undergraduates. However, this sophisticated, scholarly and impressive book will no doubt become indispensable reading for all interested in social order and disorder.'
--Alyson Brown, Edge Hill University, Social History
'This book is the product of an impressive and energetic intelligence.'
--Simon Devereaux, University of Victoria, Law and History Review
'Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England is theoretically informed by the ideas of Elias and Foucault and empirically grounded in first-hand accounts of violent acts. This combination of strengths makes it a useful addition to the growing body of work that attempts to explain long-term trends in violence.' --Ian O'Donnell, University College Dublin, Figurations
Articles, Chapters, Essays
My approach to teaching has always combined my scholarly interests in history and culture, a commitment to teaching with primary sources, and the application of information technology to the learning environment.