My new monograph Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth brings extensive fresh research to Tolkien’s life from 1911 to 1915.
Rich with archive material, it includes more than 40 images, including previously unseen original sketches by and photographs of Tolkien. The 64-page book complements and adds significantly to the account in Tolkien and the Great War or any elsewhere.
Welcome to my website. I am a freelance writer, editor and researcher, the author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War, the digital editor of Oxford Today, and a blogger and public speaker. Here you will find:
17 October: China’s new long march: 80 years after Mao set out, what lies ahead for a nation he would barely recognise?
10 October: Talk on Tolkien to Western Front Association (Herts and Beds branch), Harpenden.
6 October: ‘Recovering Hydra’, Oxford Today – how my Tolkien research led me to discover historic lost issues of a Great War magazine edited by Wilfred Owen. A fuller account appeared in September in the Wilfred Owen Association Journal, 2014 issue 2, on 17 June on my blog, and on 12 June in Oxfordshire Limited Edition (Oxford Times).
22 October: I take part in ‘Tolkien’s Beowulf: A Roundtable’, a Medieval English Research Seminar with the Faculty of English at Oxford University. 5.15pm in The History of the Book Room, St Cross Building, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UL. Free and open to all.
October: In Tolkien Studies 11, ‘“The road from adaptation to invention”: How Tolkien came to the brink of Middle-earth in 1914’, the in-depth exploration I only touch on in my Guardian piece. In the same issue I review Tolkien’s first Elvish lexicon and major later work too (as published in Parma Eldalamberon 12 and 21).
November 2014: I talk on location about Tolkien in War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme, a BBC TV documentary directed by Sebastian Barfield. Being previewed at as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas, 5 November.
2 November: Tolkien talk at the Militär Historisches Museum in Dresden.
15 November: I am interviewed in front of an audience at the Bibliothèque Saint-Corneille in Compiègne, as part of a three-month exhibition, Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, le fondement d'une mythe. 4pm, free entry.
18 November: I speak on Tolkien's 1914 creative breakthrough at Tolkien in Oxford: A Symposium, Merton College. £10 for the day.
26 November: Tolkien talk, Great War and Modern Imagination Conference, Beverley, East Yorks.
December 2014: I talk about Tolkien in a TV special for La Grande Librairie on France 5.
Journalism includes interviews with Ruby Wax, Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner (both pictured below by Joby Sessions) and recent features on social change in the First World War, the future of work, and Oxford’s new Story Museum.
I have also interviewed Newbery-winning novelist Susan Cooper, polemicist Naomi Wolf, Pulitzer winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Cook, and Britain’s most decorated living soldier Sir Tommy Macpherson, among many others. I first trained as a reporter on London papers.
Talks, media appearances and classes on Tolkien, the First World War and related subjects: I regularly speak to general and specialist audiences and give interviews on television, radio and online. I have also taught at the Oxford Tolkien Spring School and the Oxford University Summer School for Adults.
Book reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, The Evening Standard, The Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere, dealing with modern historical fiction, contemporary short stories, fantasy, medieval literature, literary reference, biography, and lexicography.
Editing experience spans new media, newspapers and books. I was an Evening Standard sub-editor for many years, and I am digital editor of Oxford Today: The University Magazine. I regularly take on proofreading commissions, and have worked on books by Robin Hobb, Simon Tolkien, Greg Iles, Jack Higgins, Patrick O’Brian, E.R. Eddison and Agatha Christie.
Research for Tolkien and the Great War took me to Oxford’s Bodleian Library where I examined Tolkien’s personal papers; to the British Library; to the National Archives at Kew; and to the battlefields of the Somme. Supplementary research in college archives and elsewhere led to Tolkien at Exeter College.
I researched and wrote the chronology for Agatha Christie’s The Grand Tour, about her round-the-world 1922 trip, filling gaps she left in her account.
Other topics include the lives of many friends and connections of Tolkien, particularly R.Q. Gilson, an artist and junior officer killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
I have traced my family to the early 18th century, and have used genealogy extensively in other biographical research.
24 September: In a triple whammy for the centenary of Middle-earth, I give three different considerations of the 1914 creative breakthrough that started it all — in the Guardian, in a video of my Oxonmoot talk, and at my blog (also in Italian). At Oxonmoot I was interviewed on video on this topic and others by Jay Johnstone.
12 September: My 64-page illustrated book Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth is published with the college.
— I also talk at Oxonmoot, the Tolkien Society annual gathering, on ‘Tolkien on the brink of Middle-earth, 1914’. Video highlights here...
August: I am now digital editor of Oxford Today: The University Magazine.
27 August: Guest appearance on Son Rise Morning Show, EWTN Radio.
23 August: Tolkien y la Gran Guerra is profiled in major Spanish daily paper El Mundo.
9 August: I celebrate Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, on her centenary – at the Daily Beast.
4–8 August: Articles on the First World War for UniteLive, focusing on workers who went to war, the ‘Red Clydeside’ agitation over living and working conditions, women, war and the work revolution, agricultural workers, and the changing balance of power.
2–8 August: I teach a week’s course on Tolkien and Oxford with Dr Maria Artamonova for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults, exploring Tolkien the war writer and academic.
23 July: Talk on Tolkien to the University of Alabama’s Oxford summer school, Worcester College.
18–20 July: Guest of honour at Tolkien Thing, the annual gathering of the German Tolkien Society, at Castle Breuberg in Hesse.
14 July: Why your grandchildren may work as hard as you – or even harder. Oxford Today.
11 July: I talk to a scientist whose work is inspired by the heart disease that runs in his family. Oxford Today.
1 July: I review John Carey’s autobiography The Unexpected Professor, for Oxford Today.
5 June: Tolkien y la Gran Guerra published in Spain by Minotauro.
29 May: My review of Tolkien’s Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with ‘Sellic Spell’, in the New Statesman.
28 May: Spanish daily La Razón publishes a double-page feature on Tolkien y la Gran Guerra. Subscription only.
21 May: Panel discussion on Tolkien and the First World War, éStoria festival, Gorizia, Italy. Watch the discussion here (in Italian and English)...
18 May: I comment on Tolkien’s Beowulf in the New York Times.
15 May: Review in L’Humanité — ‘Si, jusqu’ici, Tolkien ne semble pas avoir l’attention qu’il méritait de la part des écrivains français, la faute sera sans doute réparée avec la traduction d’un ouvrage d’importance, Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, de John Garth… Lisez ce livre. Lisez le Seigneur des anneaux, le Silmarillion, Bilbo le Hobbit. Lire Tolkien ce n’est pas fuir le monde, c’est le rencontrer différement.’
15 May: An exploration of Oxford’s new Story Museum. Oxford Today.
May: A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Stuart D. Lee, published by Wiley-Blackwell, including my ‘A Brief Biography’.
30 April: I give the Rector’s seminar on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.
16 April: I write on the explosion in migration studies, Oxford Today.
12 April: Guest speaker, Tolkien Society AGM, Hay-on-Wye. My Tolkien and the boy who didn’t believe in fairies is voted best article in the inaugural Tolkien Society Awards. It’s also available in Spanish.
11 April: I interview writer and comedian Ruby Wax, Oxford Today.
8 April: I talk about my book and researches on the German Tolkien Society website. German and English.
6 April: Founder’s Day talk on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.
4 April: I hear from TV historian Lucy Worsley, Arthurian author Kevin Crossley-Holland and Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn at the Oxford Literary Festival, for Oxford Today.
31 March: I talk to Australian news website The New Daily about Tolkien’s enduring appeal.
27 March:I talk to major German news website Spiegel Online about Tolkien.
25 March: Discussion of Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg on Deutschlandradio Kultur.
24 March: Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg published by Klett-Cotta, with audiobook from Der Hörverlag.
Here, also in German, Marcel Aubron-Bülles talks about translating the book.
22 March: Bring on the monsters! My Guardian preview feature on Tolkien’s forthcoming Beowulf translation is an Editor’s Pick.
19 March: Interviewed in the Guardian and Telegraph and quoted in El País on Tolkien’s Beowulf.
— My review of A Strong Song Tows Us, Richard Burton’s biography of Basil Bunting, published at Oxford Today.
27 February: Somme feature in El País highlights Tolkien and the Great War.
20 February: Le Monde reviews ‘le passionant essai Tolkien et la Grande Guerre’ in a (subscription-only) piece on the literary impact of the war.
February: Blog posts: Sam Gamgee and Tolkien’s batmen (now also in Portuguese and French) and The Tolkien brothers of Bumble Dell.
— The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment out in paperback and ebook, with several of my contributions.
6 January: Review, Peter Lewis’s A Rogue’s Gallery, Oxford Today.
6 December: Review, Ian Wilson’s Little Dictionary of Big Words You Should Know, for Oxford Today.
5 December: Lire special issue previews Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, with extract.
25 November: Report on the JFK anniversary talk by biographers Randall Woods and Godfrey Hodgson at Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute.
22 November: Tolkien Brasil gives me a regular guest column.
20 November: My appreciation of artist and friend Pauline Baynes – guest column at JJ Books.
14 November: Launch of Exeter College: The First 700 Years, including my contribution on ‘The Undergraduate Tolkien’.
13 November: On The Oxfordians, a new art group, for Oxford Today.
8 November: Talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society on how Tolkien’s experience in the First World War shaped Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
3 November: Long-form feature on the coincidental deaths of JFK, CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley 50 years ago at the Daily Beast. Previously presented as a talk to the Oxford CS Lewis Society and in short form in Oxford Today. I was later interviewed on the topic by Al Jazeera English.
24 October: Filmed an interview with the BBC in and near the trenches of Thiepval Wood for a 2014 documentary on writers on the Somme.
— Reviewed Alison Brackenbury’s poetry collection Then, in Oxford Today.
17 October: Talk: Tolkien’s Dead Marshes, National Army Museum.
16 October: joined Twitter as @JohnGarthWriter.
6 October: ‘Battle of the Somme: the “animal horror” that inspired JRR Tolkien.’ In the Sunday Telegraph’s First World War supplement.
4 October: I talk to the Foreign Office’s Foreign Policy Counsellor in Washington, Jennifer Cole OBE, about her time at Oxford.
September: My Evening Standard article ‘Tolkien fantasy was born in trenches of the Somme’ is now in Portuguese.
31 August: I talk to Newbery medallist Susan Cooper on her new novel Ghost Hawk, at The Daily Beast.
29 July: Talk on Tolkien, British Studies at Oxford summer school, St John’s College.
29 July: Interviewed by Malcolm Boyden on BBC Radio Oxford on the 59th birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring.
3 July: Launched Facebook page, John Garth, writer.
July: Interviewed outgoing Oxford English Dictionary editor John Simpson, in Blueprint. Read here.
July: Review of The Broken Scythe: Death and Immortality in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, in Tolkien Studies 10. Read here (Project Muse subscription only).
21 March: Opening talk at the Oxford Tolkien Spring School, on Tolkien’s life.
March: Visited the Oxford Literary Festival for Oxford Today, hearing Alister McGrath on C.S. Lewis and Lucy Hughes-Hallett on her Samuel Johnson Prize-winning biography of proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio.
— Reviewed Mark Atherton’s There and Back Again, on Tolkien and The Hobbit.
5 February: Talk on Tolkien, Oxford C.S. Lewis Society.
25 January: Reviewed Prajwal Parajuly’s The Gurkha’s Daughter, The Guardian.
January: Interviewed on BBC Online and ITV Meridian on Tolkien’s birthday.
December: Interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford’s James Cannon Show on the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
October: Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s only print interview from her historic 2012 visit to Britain — in Oxford Today, alongside my interviews with £75million university bursary donor Michael Moritz and biographer Michael Korda.
30 September: Gave a talk on Tolkien via live video feed to the National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.
19 August: At the Tolkien Society’s Return of the Ring conference I spoke about Tolkien’s close friend Rob Gilson and took part in a panel discussion about research.
3 August: Spoke on the BBC Radio 4 documentary Tolkien in Love about J.R.R. Tolkien’s reunion with his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt, their marriage, and their wartime separation.
16 June: Hungarian Tolkien Society conference in Budapest: talk on how the First World War shaped the portrayal of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Published in Hungarian in J.R.R. Tolkien: Fantázia és erköles, ed. Dr Pődör Dóra, Nagy Andrea and Füzessy Tamás.
15 June: Q&A with Michael Martinez of the Middle-earth and JRR Tolkien News website.
For older publications and appearances, please visit the relevant pages via the navigation bar at the top of this page.