I was born in New Zealand and educated at Victoria University Wellington and Merton College Oxford. I joined the School of English at the University of Kent in 1974 where I became Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural History. I retired from the School of English in 2009.
My main academic fields have been in Victorian, Postcolonial and Pacific writing, the history and literature of empire, migration, travel writing and island studies.
In recent years I have been working on two major projects. One is a book-length study of the Kent coast and how it has figured as the nation’s front line. The other is a memoir - Snaps: scenes of a post-war childhood and adolescence – a sequence of short scenes of growing up in New Zealand between the late 1940s the late 1960s. I have also been regularly publishing articles on aspects of the history of cricket.