Peter Moore is a writer, historian and critic. Born in Staffordshire in the early eighties, he was educated at Durham University and City, University of London. He now teaches on the Mst in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
Peter’s interest is in the rapidly changing societies of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His debut book, Damn His Blood, was a reconstruction of a double murder in rural Worcestershire at the height of the Napoleonic Wars and was published Chatto in June 2012. His second book was The Weather Experiment, the story of the meteorological enlightenment of the nineteenth century. It became an instant Sunday Times bestseller after publication in 2015, Richard Morrison of the Times chose it as his Book of the Year, the New York Times included it in their 100 Notable Books of 2015 and it was adapted by BBC4 for a three-part documentary called Storm Troupers: the fight to forecast the weather.
Peter was a 2014 Gladstone Library writer in residence and a 2016 Winston Churchill Fellow. He reviews regularly for The Literary Review and his journalism has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and on the BBC.
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The Enlightenment was an age of endeavours. From Johnson’s Dictionary to campaigns for liberty to schemes for measuring the dimensions of the solar system, Britain was consumed by the impulse for grand projects, undertaken at speed. ‘Endeavour’ was also the name given to a Whitby collier bought by the Royal Navy in 1768 for an expedition to the South Seas. A commonplace, coal-carrying vessel, no one could have guessed that Endeavour would go on to become the most significant ship in the history of British exploration.
Endeavour famously carried James Cook on his first great voyage, visiting Pacific islands unknown to European geography, charting for the first time New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia and almost foundering on the Great Barrier Reef. But Endeavour was a ship with many lives. She was there at the Wilkes Riots in London in 1768. During the battles for control of New York in 1776 she witnessed the bloody birth of the United States of America. As well as carrying botanists, a Polynesian priest and the remains of the first kangaroo to arrive in Britain, she transported Newcastle coal and Hessian soldiers. According to Charles Darwin, she helped Cook add a hemisphere to the civilised world. NASA named a space shuttle after her. To others she would be a toxic symbol, responsible for the dispossession of the oldest continuous human society and the disruption of many others.
No one has ever told Endeavour’s complete story before. Peter Moore sets out to explore the different lives of this remarkable ship, from the acorn that grew into the oak that made her, to her rich and complex legacy.
THE WEATHER EXPERIMENT: THE PIONEERS WHO SOUGHT TO SEE THE FUTURE
In 1865 a broken Admiral Robert FitzRoy locked himself in his dressing room and cut his throat. His grand meteorological project had failed. Yet only a decade later, Fitzroy’s storm warning system and ‘forecasts’ would return, the model for what we use today.
In an age when a storm at sea was evidence of God’s great wrath, nineteenth-century meteorologists had to fight against convention and religious dogma. But buoyed by the achievements of the Enlightenment a generation of mavericks set out to explain the secrets of the atmosphere and learned to predict the future. Among them were Luke Howard, the first to classify the clouds, Francis Beaufort who quantified the winds, James Glaisher, who explored the upper atmosphere in a hydrogen balloon, Samuel Morse whose electric telegraph gave scientists the means by which to transmit weather warnings, and FitzRoy himself, master sailor, scientific pioneer and founder of the MET Office.
Reputations were built and shattered. Fractious debates raged over decades between scientists from London to Galway, Boston to Paris. Explaining the atmosphere was one thing, but predicting what it was going to do seemed a step too far. In 1854, when a politician suggested to the Commons that Londoners might soon know the weather twenty-four hours in advance, the House roared with laughter.
Peter Moore’s exhilarating account navigates treacherous seas, rough winds and uncovers the obsession that drove these men to great invention and greater understanding.
PUBLICATION DATE: 5th May 2015
DAMN HIS BLOOD: BEING A TRUE AND DETAILED HISTORY OF THE MOST BARBAROUS AND INHUMANE MURDER AT ODDINGLEY AND THE QUICK AND AWFUL RETRIBUTION – Buy it here
‘Damn him!’ he swore. ‘There is no more harm in shooting him than a mad dog!’
The brutal murder of the Reverend George Parker in the rural village of Oddingley on Midsummer’s Day in 1806 – shot and beaten to death, his body set on fire and left smouldering in his own glebe field – gripped everyone from the Home Secretary in London to newspapermen across the country. It was a strange and stubborn case. The investigation lasted twenty-four years and involved inquests, judges and coroners, each more determined than the last to solve Oddingley’s most gruesome crime – or crimes, as it turned out.
Damn His Blood is a fascinating glimpse into English rural life at the beginning of the nineteenth century, so often epitomised by the civilised drawing rooms of Jane Austen or the rural idylls of Constable. England was exhausted and nervous: dogged by Pitt’s war taxes, mounting inflation and the lingering threat of a French invasion, violence was rife, particularly in rural communities where outsiders were regarded with deep suspicion.
With a cast of characters straight out of Hardy, Damn His Blood is a nail-biting true story of brutality, greed and ruthlessness which brings an elusive society vividly back to life.
PUBLICATION DATE: 21 June 2012