About Michael H. Collins - Teacher and Author

About Michael H. Collins

I am a teacher, author, copywriter, lecturer and public speaker.

First off, I haven’t put a middle initial to be pretentious but to help people know who they’re dealing with. Unlike the more famous Michael Collinses, I don’t play the clarinet, haven’t been in space and certainly don’t aspire to any role in Irish politics.

                                          Michael H. Collins near Calgary, Alberta

Like many people in today’s fast-moving world, I’ve been successful in several fields but moved between them. In the 1980s I worked on public sector pay. In those days we could recommend increases. One morning the team I was on advised Margaret Thatcher to spend an extra billion dollars (£400 million) on nurses and allied professions. She agreed.

In the 90s I moved to Canada and drew up contracts to protect intellectual property that had been paid for by the province of Ontario. That gave me some background when I came to work as an author, respecting the copyright of others and protecting my own.

An opportunity to spend some time in the fascinating culture of China took me to Beijing International Studies University in the noughties. It was there that I started to write more articles and reviews in such places as the Contemporary Review. The editors, Richard Mullen and Jim Munson are still friends. They know they can always rely on me to meet their requirements for quality, length and timeliness.

I write about cultures because I have taught internationally, travelled widely and enjoy meeting people who have different customs and ways of life. Besides, mutual understanding between cultures is more and more important. I hope my books help readers to understand better the countries I write about. I’d be interested to learn what countries my readers would like me to write about next.

America is a fascinating country for people throughout the world. Yet its very existence poses numerous questions. How did a gaggle of quarrelsome colonies perched on its eastern seaboard expand to conquer half a continent and become the world’s superpower? How has a country whose population is made up of waves of immigrants stayed united and preserved its institutions intact through over 200 years? How does an economy which has such wide differences in wealth avoid civil strife? Why is it that while countries have been queuing up to join the European Union, no sovereign state has ever applied to join the United States, although both lay claim to universal humanistic values? These and other questions are addressed in The American Panorama, which provides a solid factual foundation for anyone interested in America.

I write history because it’s truer than most of what we read elsewhere.

That’s not to say news is not important, but we can be drowned in a Niagara of words about everyday events, rushed on from bite to bite (or byte to byte) without time to reflect on what it means or relate it to what has gone before.

History is somewhere between great novels and poetry on the one hand, and philosophy and theology on the other.

St George and the Dragons is a report on what is now known about what the traditions of St George – martyr, healer, patron of farmers, metal workers and cavalry, protector of women and the poor, and patron of cavalry – really are, how the tradition of St George was transplanted from the Near East to England, took root and threw out a canopy of English branches, taking a quite different English form. But has the tree died because the wellsprings that watered it have dried up? Or are fresh growths shooting out in new and unexpected directions while still recognizably part of the tree? What is the relevance of St George to English identity today/>

What’s in the book often summarizes discoveries that have been revealed in learned journals addressed to other scholars. The book also contains reflections on what it all means, and at times advocacy, that find little place in cloistered common rooms. St George can be seen as patron of environmental concerns and activities such as urban farming. His traditions can be enlisted in campaigns to stop female genital mutilation, forced marriages and human trafficking and protect people who are forced to become refugees. The figure of St George also can continue to rally support for those who serve in the Armed Forces and symbolise the moral principles that should govern the conduct of war and the use of force to keep the peace.

As a university teacher, reviewer and sometimes cruise lecturer, I’ve read or visited dozens of the places really or supposedly connected with St George. (A visit to meet scholars in Syria, where important inscriptions have been found, has had to be postponed because of the troubles there.) Even so I’ve read and talked to many people also interested in the myriad facets of the St George tradition in England.

I think my engagement with St George over 20 years has given me a lot of insight into the way people of previous times related to him. Certainly friends in all walks of life who are interested in the saint have helped me make the book more accurate, more rounded and more interesting.

For example, for the chapter on flags bearing the cross of St George, Graham Bartram of Flags of the World some years ago guided me through the current debate on when, how and by whom the flag was used in the Middle Ages.

Over the years, I’ve published articles and reviews on all kinds of subjects — politics, religion, culture, current affairs — about England, America, Canada, China, and Central and Eastern Europe. I’ve even tried my hand at funny stories. (Well, they amused me.) You can read some of my more recent pieces as they appear in the blog pages on this website.

I love writing most kinds of nonfiction, and helping other people, especially students, to become better writers. I’ve served as an instructor and private tutor of writing for academic purposes. In China I sometimes spoke to roomfuls of 150.