Professor David Roberts

Dean of Faculty, National Teaching Fellow

School of English

David Roberts has taught at the universities of Bristol, Oxford, Kyoto, Osaka and Worcester, and in 2008/09 he was the inaugural holder of the John Henry Newman Chair at Newman University College, Birmingham. He has written extensively about seventeenth and eighteenth-century drama and literature. In 2010 his study of the actor Thomas Betterton was published by Cambridge University Press and short-listed for the Theatre Library Association's George Freedley Award.

In the same year his revised edition of Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year' appeared in the Oxford World's Classics series. This article explores the principles of annotation used in the edition. David has written more about the edition in two posts on the OUP blogspace: Writing Disasters and Daniel Defoe, Londoner. His edition of the catalogue of Thomas Betterton's book and picture collection, 'Pinacotheca Bettertonaeana', was published by The Society for Theatre Research in 2013. Recently published by Cambridge University Press, Restoration Plays and Players, investigates the context and 'life cycle' of Restoration plays, from original source to modern revival. Studies of Thomas Killigrew’s managerial career and of ethics and theatrical biography are forthcoming.

He has contributed talks for BBC Radio 3 and 4, lectured at the Chichester Festival Theatre and written numerous programme essays for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. David is a board member for the HE Academy English Subject Centre, a Fellow of the HEA and of the English Association. He sat on the board of the National Academy of Writing from 2008-11. David also serves as a staff governor at Birmingham City University. In 2013 he was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the HEA.

In his capacity as Birmingham City University's University Orator, David has given citations for the award of Honorary Doctorates to, among many others, writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, garden designer Bunny Guinness, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, actress Julie Walters, Lottery Commissioner Sarah Thane, advertising guru Trevor Beattie, and Phones4U founder John Caudwell.

Read Professor Robert's blog posts on Views@BCU

Matthew Bourne wakes up Sleeping Beauty (11/02/13)

A great Brummie film maker (31/01/13) 

Transfer windows and giant killers (24/01/13)

e-books and p-books (16/01/13)

Teenagers to be encouraged to learn classic poetic works (09/01/13)


BA (Hons) - University of Bristol
DPhil - University of Oxford


English Drama, 1600-1700, theatre criticism, and English prose, 1660-1770.


The Life of Harris the Actor (Gold World Publishing, 2015)

Restoration Plays and Players: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Thomas Betterton: The Greatest Actor of the Restoration Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2010) 

Ed., Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (Oxford World's Classics, 2010)

'Class and the Seventeenth-Century Actor,' Studies in Theatre and Performance (2010)

'"I think no ill one". A Letter from Thomas Betterton sheds new light on the Chandos Portrait', The Times Literary Supplement, 14 August 2009

'"Almost Impossible in Praise": Dedicatory Criticism in English Dramatic Texts, 1660-1700', 1650-1850: Critical Voices Special Issue (October 2008)

'Thomas Betterton, Bookseller's Apprentice', The Review of English Studies (November 2007)

'Caesar's Gift: playing the park in the Seventeenth Century', ELH vol 71 (also given as conference paper at 'Literary London', Goldsmith's College London, 2002)

'Theatre Criticism and the Law', New Theatre Quarterly vol XIX part 3, 2003

'Sir Fopling in the Mall', Notes and Queries vol 50 n.s. no.3, 2003

'Shakespeare, Theater Criticism and the Acting Tradition', Shakespeare Quarterly vol 53 no.3, 2002

'Two Shakespearian Allusions and the Date of Marvell's "A Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun"', Notes and Queries vol 49 n.s. no.3, 2002

'Henry VIII and The True Chronicle History of King Leir', Notes and Queries vol 48 n.s. no.3, 2001

'Ravishing Strides: signs of the peripatetic on the seventeenth-century stage', New Theatre Quarterly vol XVII part 1, 2001

2001-2010 Numerous reviews for Notes and Queries, The Scriblerian, Shakespeare Quarterly; most recently of James Bulman, Shakespeare Cross-Dressed, for Shakespeare Quarterly, and the Wesleyan edition of Fielding's A Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon for Notes and Queries.

Currently working on Anglo-French Drama, 1660-1700; the life of William Congreve; an edition of the sale catalogue of Thomas Betterton's books and pictures, Pinacotheca Bettertonaeana; and a commissioned essay for Metzler Verlag on performances of Hamlet, 1600-1709.

Media Profile

Programme essays for The Royal Opera House, most recently for Hansel and Gretel (December 2008), on the history of fairytales and Handel's Tamerlano (March 2010, on Tamburlaine from Marlowe to Rowe). Guest contributor to Jude Kelly's Radio 4 programme on Restoration actresses, Summer 2010; interviews on BBC Hereford and Worcester, BBC Radio WM and Saga FM, Birmingham. Extensive correspondence/features in Times Higher Education; recent feature in the English Subject Centre publication, Wordplay, called 'Realising (English in) the University in the Twenty-First Century.' Pre-performance lecture on Stoppard and Sheridan for the Chichester Festival Theatre, August 2010.


Author/editor of four volumes for Oxford University Press including a 1989 monograph study of Restoration Audiences, The Ladies, and of two textbooks for Kogan Page/Taylor and Francis. David would welcome proposals for projects on Renaissance and Restoration Drama or on theatre criticism.

Media Work

David Roberts is one of the University’s dedicated team of trained media champions, and can comment on a range of subjects including:

  • Theatre
  • The Arts
  • Literature
  • Opera

To arrange a media interview, please contact Birmingham City University Press Office on 0121 331 6738, 07967 271532,
email or via Twitter @BCUPressOffice