Jeremy Black, the Professor of History at the University of Exeter, ought to be a National Treasure, but instead is hardly known outside a few cognoscenti of history-writing. A Stakhanovite who has just published his 85th book, he deserves far more public recognition. The sheer quality of his output, especially in the field of 18th-century studies, ought to have marked him out as one of our great historians, yet he is curiously neglected, possibly because of his quiet Toryism, innate modesty and horror of providing TV-friendly soundbites.
Black is a natural didact, a word hardly ever used except pejoratively nowadays, but a noble calling nonetheless. He wants us to share his enthusiasms. He writes non-Marxist history with emphasis on narrative, readability and trying to understand the great actors of the past in their own terms and contexts, rather than in ours. He rebels against the tyranny of the contemporary, whereby our mores are assumed, simply through chronology, to be superior to those of earlier times.
In refreshing contrast to the increasing specialisation of British history-writing - featuring micro-theses in subjects with ever-smaller time-frames and geographical scope - Black is equally at ease with post-1500 military history, 18th-century UK and European history, international relations, cartographic history and newspaper history. He can also do pointilliste monographs when required, as The Collapse of the Anglo-French Alliance 1727-31  proves. Black's sense of humour might count against him in some po-faced history circles. The Politics of James Bond  might indicate a lightheartedness not considered appropriate in a profession that all too often takes itself extremely seriously.