Amanda Vickery   








historian, writer, broadcaster


















Sunday Telegraph, 26 September 2010. ‘They look so stately and elegant, those Georgian houses. But what really went on inside them? What were the power relationships between husbands and wives, servants and masters? With information gleaned from account books and wallpaper patterns, as well as diaries and letters, Amanda Vickery breathes new life into 18th century society. It becomes clear that men, just as much as women, fussed over soft furnishings and craved the domesticity that married life could offer.’






Katyboo1’s Weblog,  24 September 2010, ‘Dashing Away with a Chicken’. ‘Amanda Vickery is a lovely presenter, charming, funny and with a knack for telling you curious tid bits and anecdotes that stick in your brain.  It’s just how I think they should teach history at school.' To read more, follow this link.






Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2010, Amanda Vickery's history of house interiors in Georgian England is a sparkling and erudite work from one of our best historians.'







The Independent, 16 September 2010, ‘Big trouble at BBC2? The controller is calm under fire’. Ian Burrell interviews Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC2. ‘The BBC2 audience will get to see the "very vibrant" Amanda Vickery, explaining the minutiae of domestic life in 18th-century Britain. "Hurrah! A woman presenter – at last, it's coming!" exclaims Hadlow, who read one of Vickery's books and promptly called her to say, "Let's have a chat." Vickery, Hadlow says, has the exceptional level of authority that she seeks in a BBC2 presenter. "I do believe that people from the world of academia who want to be on television and are right for television do find ways of announcing themselves to the world. You can tell from the way people write that they're interested in communicating to a wider audience. If she was in the room now, she could charm you and compel you with a subject".’ To read more, follow this link.






London Review of Books, 19 August 2010. Review of Behind Closed Doors: Amanda Vickery's 'sparkling, richly detailed investigation'. To read more, follow this link.







The New Republic, 28 July 2010. Review of Behind Closed Doors: ‘Vickery, like Dickens, knows that in household goods, larger truths are revealed. To say something that is at once original to the expert and exciting to the common reader, the historian must combine a heightened mastery of the material with a clarity of prose. No wonder such works are rare; Amanda Vickery’s wonderful book should therefore be celebrated. To read more, follow this link









Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, 20 June 2010. Amanda Vickery will be appearing at 'Kelmarsh at Home: A Celebration of House and Garden Writing’. For more information, follow this link.





House and Garden, June 2010. Review of Behind Closed Doors: ‘Men and women were both under the illusion that they were in charge of the Georgian home.  Amanda Vickery makes a delightful study of these roles and homes and draws from a huge period sources as she delves into the lives both of the rich and of the everyday Georgian. This book takes an unstarchy look at domestic life in Georgian England and is full of delicious detail.’








Brighton Festival, 19 May 2010:  Amanda Vickery and David Kynaston discuss writing about ordinary lives. For more information, follow this link.







IHR Reviews in History, May 2010. Helen Berry reviews Behind Closed Doors. ‘Amanda Vickery’s stunning new book on domestic life in 18th-century England trumps the traditionalists by showing what can be achieved when a historian boldly goes into new terrains, harnessing the technological advancements that the internet has made possible with an impressive array of original archival evidence (including over 60 collections in various archives and local record offices) and a kaleidoscopic range of material sources: from textiles, furniture, and the visual arts, to wallpaper, and the built environment… Vickery’s prose is a model of its kind: as elegant and as bracing as a brisk rub-down in a gilt bath with carbolic soap.  Some of the considerable achievements of this important book are Vickery’s sheer mastery of the sources, the originality of her materials and methodology, and the provocations contained in her seductive prose.’ To read more, follow this link.








Two Nerdy History Girls blog, 4 May 2010. Amanda Vickery is claimed by the Nerdy History Girls: 'we’ve been dying to talk about Behind Closed Doors because it’s a perfect Nerdy History Girl book, loaded with all kinds of fascinating details about life in bygone days.’ To read more, follow this link.








BBC Television, 27 April 2010. As part of drive to 'brain up' history documentaries on BBC television, Amanda Vickery is commissioned to develop a three-part landmark TV series for BBC Two, to be broadcast in November 2010. For more information, follow this link.








Elle Décor, March 2010, Mitchell Owens, 'Living the Jane Austen Life' with Amanda Vickery: ‘for a deeper understanding of how [Georgian] houses looked, worked, and, more important, were decorated, settle down with historian Amanda Vickery’s recent book Behind Closed Doors. Driven by colorful diaries of the time, as well as illuminating letters and other contemporary material such as household accounts, Vickery’s scholarly but amusing narrative brings the high and lows of Georgian housekeeping to brilliant life.’ To read more,  follow this link.








Yorkshire Post, 18 March 2010, Amanda Vickery ponders the reality of life in a Georgian home. To read more,  follow this link.







Fairfax House, York, 18 March 2010. Amanda Vickery opens the York Literature Festival with two sell-out lectures at Fairfax House, York and an interview on BBC Radio Yorkshire. For more information, follow this link.








… the sight of morning … blog, 17 March 2010. Amanda Vickery 'incandescent in flamboyant red drapery' gives vivacious and confident candlelit talk at the Soane Museum. To read more,  follow this link.  







austenonly blog,  26 February 2010. 'Amanda Vickery gave an animated and fascinating lecture based on her book Behind Closed Doors to a packed room at the Georgian group'. To read more, follow this link.








February 2010, Behind Closed Doors is shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman prize 2009-10, the English Pen literary prize for a non-fiction book of specifically historical content. For more information, follow this link.








Lancashire Life, 31 January 2010,  ‘Amanda Vickery - Preston’s History Woman’: ‘she has produced highly readable books brimming with wit and wisdom’.







Judith Flanders,  The Sunday Telegraph,  27 December 2009,  reviewing Behind Closed Doors, ‘In history… the study if homes and home life has undergone a revolution in the past few decades.  One of the leading figures in that revolution is Amanda Vickery.  Who can resist a book that describes one diarist as a confirmed grumbletonian.  One would have to be a confirmed grumbletonian indeed not to find enlightenment – and pleasure – on every page of this book’.









Sunday Book Review, Editors’ Choice, The New York Times, 27 December 2009, ‘BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: At Home in Georgian England, by Amanda Vickery (Yale University, $45.) Stepping into the lives of servants, aristocrats and “middling sorts,” Vickery engagingly examines how people negotiated relationships and private space.’









Andrea Wulf, The New York Times, 16 December, 2009, reviewing Behind Closed Doors. ‘Few writers have such a talent for transforming the driest historical source into a gripping narrative, for teasing stories from account books, inventories, ledgers and pattern books. … If until now the Georgian home has been like a monochrome engraving, Vickery has made it three dimensional and vibrantly colored. “Behind Closed Doors” demonstrates that rigorous academic work can also be nosy, gossipy and utterly engaging.’ To read more, follow this link.








Miranda Sawyer, The Observer, 13 December 2009, 2009 in Review: Radio. Top Ten: ‘A History of Private Life (R4) Amanda Vickery reveals the fascinating in the ordinary.’ To read more, follow this link.









Jane Brocket’s yarnstorm blog, 9 December 2009, ‘Five Good Things’: ‘Amanda Vickery is an entertaining and readable historian with a genuine and highly engaging enthusiasm for domestic life (she also wrote and presented a wonderful Radio 4 series). Behind Closed Doors is an illuminating study of Georgian home life, with a particularly interesting chapter on 'What Women Made' which takes a new (and sensible) approach to understanding women's crafts and domestic accomplishments at that time. To read more, follow this link.







Stella Tillyard, The Times Literary Supplement, 9 December 2009, reviewing Behind Closed Doors. Vickery illuminates, ‘often brilliantly, always entertainingly and through a myriad of examples from many different people, … the ways in which family and gender relations were played out in Georgian England through the purchase, ordering and consumption of household goods, furniture and luxury items.’






Lisa Hilton, Best History Books of 2009, The Independent, 6 December 2009: ‘Comparison between Vickery and Jane Austen is irresistible. In a sense, this is history on the scale of the famous square of ivory on which Austen claimed the ideal novel should be created: graceful, delicate, sparkling with sprezzatura. As with Austen's novels, though, Vickery's research into the landscapes of Georgian domestic politics reveals a great deal more than embroidery going on in the drawing-room. This book is almost too pleasurable, in that Vickery's style and delicious nosiness conceal some seriously weighty scholarship. Using more than 60 archives, Vickery develops her theories through the perceptions of her protagonists, themselves so vivid and memorable that observations such as "The battle of wainscot versus marble, or stucco versus rampant wallpaper was a motif of a wider cultural debate in which gender was a weapon" sneak slyly under the dado.’ To read more, follow this link.







Sarah Bakewell, The Independent, 4 December 2009, reviewing Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England: ‘Using diaries, financial accounts and commercial letter-books, Amanda Vickery fleshes out a nuanced and often shocking portrait of the Georgian home – and of the limitations under which its occupants often laboured.’ To read more, follow this link.







History Today, December 2009. Historians’ Favourites in 2009: Amanda Vickery. ‘Mad for it’. ‘Historical drama on television and film almost invariably seeks to reassure the audience that under the corsets beat the hearts of people just like us. A lazy concern with ‘relevance’ has just given us a ‘fresh’ and ‘edgy’ Emma on BBC TV, where 21st Century personalities found themselves unaccountably in fancy dress with arch dialogue to murder. In last year’s film The Duchess, Keira Knightley was a melancholy Gainsborough vision in wig and pastel silks, but she still looked as if she was longing for a fag and a café latte. So hooray for AMC’s multi-award winning Mad Men, a knowing, stylised and slinky examination of 1960s New York. Spending 50 minutes a week in the offices of Stirling Cooper – a mythical advertising agency on Madison Avenue – is to be transported back into a vanished mindset, of rat-pack cool and easy-breezy sexism. Our anti-hero Don Draper is trying to sell happiness because he can’t buy it himself: ‘What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.’ Everyone’s still chain-smoking and packing away the cocktails, but the startling and defining feature is the lurid misogyny. With the exception of the female heroine Peggy (described as a lobster because ‘all the meat’s in the tail’), the ‘girls’ only gain status through men, competing relentlessly on looks (all conical bras and girdles) and concealing their ages. For 99 per cent of the time, the men don’t register the women as fully human. And, of course, it all looks terrific. As sexy and bitter as a bone-dry dirty martini.’





History Today, December 2009. Historians’ Favourites in 2009: Kate Williams. ‘Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 2009) is a deeply moving investigation into the domestic lives of our 18th-century ancestors. A scholar of the highest order, Vickery has scoured over 60 archives and, as in her prize-winning The Gentleman’s Daughter, she has unearthed wonderful sources – letters, diaries and even the record book of a wallpaper firm. In supple, elegant prose she repeatedly shows that domestic routines and choices were intertwined with political and public participation. Home life could be content or cruel, run smoothly or lurch through disasters, but it was the perennial obsession of every Georgian man and woman. A book full of fascinating discoveries – and radically important conclusions.’







Margaret Drabble's pick of the year, The Guardian 28 November 2009, ‘I am reading Amanda Vickery's Behind Closed Doors (Yale), an evocative account of life in Georgian England, which celebrates the domestic arts and explores what we mean by home: how much we owe the historians who trawl through the illegible and scattered archives for us to assemble these alternative narratives of history. The history of needlework, which would have bored me unspeakably when I was a girl, now seems both interesting and important.’ To read more, follow this link.







Dominic Sandbrook's History books of the year, The Daily Telegraph, 28 November 2009, ‘Although the Georgian era rarely gets the attention it deserves, one book stands out. Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: at Home in Georgian England (Yale, £18.99) not only revels in the details of domestic life, it also offers a very funny way of looking at otherwise familiar historical characters. Whoever would have guessed that the Duke of Cumberland, the Butcher of Culloden, had such an eye for a well-turned vase?’ To read more, follow this link.






austenonly blog, 6 November 2009, on Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery. 'I highly recommend this book to you: anyone who is keen on Jane Austen’s works will enjoy delving into the minutiae of real people’s lives – especially as many of the lives have telling details which echo in Austen’s works’ ... 'its scale is breathtaking and the detail, delicious.' To read more, follow this link.






Country Life, November 2009, Dan Cruikshank on Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. ‘Vickery is a thorough and disciplined academic who has trawled through many often obscure archives and tapped unusual or long neglected reservoirs of information. But not for a moment is she overwhelmed by the mighty volume of her research. She weaves it all into a compelling narrative packed with anecdote, strange characters and all manner of weird and wonderful detail about Georgian home life.'








Daily Mail, November 2009, ‘The History of what makes a House a Home’, Jane Shilling reviews Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. ‘Vickery is that rare thing, an academic historian who writes like a novelist. The minute detail with which her book is crammed clearly entailed years spent in archives, poring over such unpromising items as domestic account books. Yet from this dry material Vickery conjures a vivid, touching account of living men and women, the buildings they inhabited and the immense personal investment that they made in those dwellings.’ To read more, follow this link.






History Today, November 2009, 'Open House - Georgian Style'.  A revolution in sociability took place among the genteel and ‘middling’ classes of 18th-century England, as visiting friends of similar social status became a leisure pursuit in itself, especially among women, writes Amanda Vickery. To read more, follow this link.







My BBC Radio 4 series, ‘A History of Private Life’ was broadcast every weekday for six weeks from September 28 to November 6, 2009. It comprised 30 fifteen-minute programmes, with a one hour weekly omnibus edition on Fridays. For more information, follow this link.









The Herald, 24 October 2009, Anne Simpson on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘There is something wonderfully snug and gossipy about Amanda Vickery’s voice as she spills the secrets of long departed lives; a tone warmly humorous and confidential, and exactly pitched for one of the radio hits of the year. A History of Private Life has crept up on us as if in slippers, bearing the gold of intimacies and social deceits which define the past as much as any territorial battles, royal proclamations or international treaties on trade… when the radio prizes for 2009 are handed out, other programmes will be hard-pressed to beat this one for its imaginative construction, insights and charm. There’s no academic dryness here … each programme’s 15 minutes packs the droll punch of a good short story. … the lives of the long gone were just as complicated as ours; their dilemmas, intrigues and follies as tormenting, risible and vivid.’










The Guardian, 24 October 2009, Kathryn Hughes on Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. ‘Vickery's great skill lies in combining a sharp forensic eye with the ability to spot and tell stories, moving between different scales so smoothly that you can't see the joins. And then there is the wit of the thing. Few academic historians manage to be so funny without compromising the seriousness of their work. She did it 10 years ago in The Gentleman's Daughter and she has done it again here. It was worth the wait.’ To read more, follow this link.










Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. Yale University Press book of the month, October 2009. To read more, follow this link.






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The Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2009, Gillian Reynolds, ‘Radio review: Amanda Vickery, Nicky Campbell, Richard Bacon and more’. ‘I came to A History of Private Life expecting yet more history pills coated in thin sugar, terminal doses of twee. Yet here, from independent producers Loftus, is the very essence of good radio, someone with a passion for a subject conveying it as if in intimate conversation, illustrations done sparingly, with wit and care. Amanda Vickery opens old diaries and finds wonders, makes dusty documents from public record offices come alive. Her gift is to make us perceive major social change through the study of domestic detail.’ To read more, follow this link.







Radio Times 19 October 2009, Laurence Joyce, ‘Monday’s Choice’.Amanda Vickery’s splendid series on the hidden history of family life continues this week with a look at those on the domestic sidelines: servants, bachelors, spinsters, widows and widowers.  Like worm-holes through time these first-hand accounts of these ordinary and extraordinary people, preserved in letters and diaries, convey an almost tangible impression of their period.  The ubiquitous Pepys is here, in lecherous mode, fondling his housemaid’s breasts (“They being the finest that ever I saw in my life”) but also the precious new sources that Vickery has unearthed: bachelor law student Dudley Ryder wondering if he has bad breath; disabled spinster Mary Hartley determined to have the finest London carpet for her room in Bath; and the phlegmatic male midwife Matthew Flinders tying to look on the bright side as his family dies around him.’








The Guardian, 17 October 2009. Amanda Vickery, ‘A Stitch in Time’. In these straitened times, sewing has become unexpectedly fashionable. Should feminists be worried? No, argues Amanda Vickery – domestic crafts need to be rescued from the condescension of posterity. To read more, follow this link.








Podularity. Authors and books. In a Pod, 16 October 2009, ‘Through the Georgian keyhole’. Amanda Vickery podcasts on the impression of Georgian life given by National Trust properties today. To listen, follow this link.






Jane Thynne, The Independent, 15 October 2009, on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘… another daily retrospective, Amanda Vickery’s fabulous A History Of Private Life on Radio 4 provokes no such heresies. Much of it taken from diaries and letters, these delicious snippets into the etiquette of tea, or the hiring of servants, or what to do about bad breath, feel like forbidden glimpses behind the arras of history. As Vickery points out, the importance of the past lies just as much in relationships and private rituals as in universities, parliament and war.’ To read more, follow this link.







Miranda Sawyer, The Observer, 11 October 2009, on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘There's always A History of Private Life to cheer us up. What an excellent series this is. Fifteen minutes daily and every programme a gem. My colleague Euan Ferguson loved it last week, and I can’t think of many people who wouldn't. Historian Amanda Vickery has a beautiful turn of phrase, an approachable manner and importantly, a Reithian Mission: to convince that "the secrets of the past live as strongly in mundane details as in treaties and statutes.” This week we learned about the 18th century home: meaning how women used to spend their time. Doing the laundry, mostly, it seems; though there was also taking charge in the kitchen, ministering to the sick, sewing a fine seam and managing those tiresome servants,  Wednesday's programme on domestic doctoring was the funniest. A recommended remedy for madness was to tie a split raw chicken to the head; for acne to squeeze the spot till it bled and then inject ink into the cavity. "If it stings so much the better". Eat that, Clearasil.’








Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times, 11 October 2009, on Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. ‘Vickery, the ultimate house detective, not only takes us behind closed doors, she unpicks every padlock and pokes around in every drawer, rummaging through a vast stack of letters, diaries, account books and manufacturers’ records in order to understand what “home” meant to our ancestors. … “Interiors do not easily offer up their secrets,” Vickery says, but she has a genius for getting them to talk. … We see the Georgians at home as we have never seen them before in this ground-breaking book. Vickery can make a young wife’s arrangement of china into an event of thrilling social and psychological tension. Behind Closed Doors is both scholarly and terrifically good fun. Worth staying at home for.’ To read more, follow this link.










The Sunday Times, 4 October 2009, Amanda Vickery, 'Home was where the heart was'. ‘Such is the gloom that surrounds settling down today, and such is the glamour attached to mature bachelor freedom, it is hard to imagine that, until fairly recently, only marriage promised true sexual fulfilment for Christians, turning furtive or frustrated boys into fully realised men.’ To read more, follow this link.







Euan Ferguson, The Observer, 4 October, 2009, on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘Music played an important part this week as an ambitious and splendid series began, in which life in this land is traced through the minutiae of long-forgotten private papers. Historian Amanda Vickery, who has gathered together the series and presents with bright, clear, winning thoughtfulness, uses wisely chosen snatches – love letters, bills, gossip, – not from the famous people of the last 400 or so years but from the very, very ordinary (and yet all individually extraordinary). The subjects are cleverly linked, and themed, and rediscovered songs and poems set (brilliantly) to new music. And in 15 minutes you can learn almost everything about, say, the church's role in imposing patriarchy in the house, or the mad misogyny of witchcraft conspiracies, or the changing role of the closet in society. In learning of the tiny daily rhythms, and the changing of them, and the thoughts of the splendid wise dead forgotten people who recorded them, we learn nothing less than the history of this country itself. Best of all, there are another 25 episodes. Annoyingly, it's on mid-afternoon: but – joy – you can listen again. To read more, follow this link.








Chris Maume, The Independent, 4 October, 2009, on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘The BBC revels in ambitious projects, and A History of Private Life is one such. It is composed of 30 quarter-hour programmes, spread over six weeks, which explore the home and everything it has stood for over the past 500 years. The historian Amanda Vickery, pictured right, has spent 20 years amassing material, ransacking record offices, poring over diaries, unearthing caches of letters, discovering forgotten songs – and, on the evidence of the first week which deals with the 16th and 17th centuries, she's marshalled it all quite brilliantly.’ To read more, follow this link.









Frances Lass, Radio Times, week of 27 September to 2 October, 2009, on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘What an absolute gem and total delight this series is. Spanning a whopping 30 episodes, Amanda Vickery has stitched together meticulous archival studies to bring us a social history of the home. It may be regicides and revolutions that make the past, but it is the small and domestic that breathes life into it. Yet, as she notes, there is no Hansard for the home: instead she has found diaries, folk songs and letters to create warn, vivid and generously informative tableaux in which the voices of the long dead resonate down to the living. The first week is dedicated to home as a private space, protected from Satan and his witchly minions by grisly rituals. Heralded by a debate at 9 a.m., this epic series, packed with minutiae, is a cultured pearl.’








Elisabeth Mahoney, The Guardian, 2 October, 2009 on BBC Radio 4 ‘A History of Private Life’. ‘Vickery has a thrilling zeal about her as she introduces "tableaux after tableaux of domestic moments". History, she reminds us, forgets the daily, the prosaic, the homely. "Where," she asks, "is the Hansard of family life?’. To read more, follow this link.








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29 September, 2009. Arts and Humanities Research Council website news item and podcast: ‘Domestic life comes out of the closet in Radio 4 series’. In the podcast I discuss how the BBC Radio 4 series ‘A History of Private Life’ came about, how it brings to life the everyday stories of ordinary people and the pleasures and possibilities of collaborating with Loftus Audio Ltd. To listen, follow this link.





History Today, September 2009, review by Christina Hardyment of my new book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 2009). She praises the book for describing ‘“Enlightenment domesticity” and the growth of elegant “taste” with wonderful aplomb and infectious enthusiasm.’











The Daily Telegraph, Saturday, 26 September 2009. In ‘From pillow talk to flock wallpaper: private lives of Britons revealed’, Julie Henry introduces my BBC Radio 4 series, ‘A History of Private Life’. To read, follow this link.




12 November 2008, I gave the 2008 Harper Collins History Lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects in central London, with the title ‘Out of the Closet: Love, Power and Houses in 18th Century England’. ‘A large and enthusiastic audience listened spellbound as Dr Vickery delivered a gripping lecture on the central place played in Georgian life in England by domestic organization and management. She argued that in spite of the lack of curiosity in the historical literature concerning life in the home in eighteenth-century England, there are rich sources to be mined to explore this fascinating area.’ For pictures of the event, follow this link and this link.