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Venice-on-Thames

Amanda Vickery: Vauxhall Gardens, 7 February 2013

Vauxhall Gardens: A History 
by Alan Borg and David Coke.
Yale, 473 pp., £55, June 2011, 978 0 300 17382 6
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... Eighteenth-century historians can’t get enough of pleasure gardens. They seem to crystallise the new and distinctive features of Georgian society and culture in one fabulous setting. As places of commerce masquerading as wooded groves, pleasure gardens offered idealised rus in urbe. They could seem poetic in the dusk as the visitor listened to the evening chorus of resident songbirds, but were transportingly magical as night fell and hundreds, if not thousands, of lights were illuminated in the trees and colonnades ...

Don’t marry a Christian

Amanda Vickery: Wives or slaves?, 8 September 2011

Women in 18th-Century Europe 
by Margaret Hunt.
Longman, 484 pp., £21.99, October 2009, 978 0 582 30865 7
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... It was a hackneyed truth that while European Christian women in the 18th century were essentially free, ‘“Oriental” and Muslim women were incarcerated body and soul behind veils,’ as Margaret Hunt puts it. Browbeaten British wives accused oppressive husbands of Turkish despotism, drawing attention to the illegitimacy of domestic tyranny in the land of Liberty as well as to their total ignorance of Ottoman Europe ...

Do Not Scribble

Amanda Vickery: Letter-Writing, 4 November 2010

The Pen and the People: English Letter-Writers 1660-1800 
by Susan Whyman.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 19 953244 5
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Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters 
by Dena Goodman.
Cornell, 408 pp., £24.50, June 2009, 978 0 8014 7545 0
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... A voyeuristic pleasure in being privy to secrets drives many archival historians. After ploughing through bundles of faded letters reporting on wills and the weather, pigs and piles, what researcher’s heart would not thrill at the words: ‘Please burn this letter that no mortal eyes may read it’? Manuscripts may seem to offer the pleasures of the peephole but no serious historian would argue that personal manuscripts offer access to unvarnished, unmediated truth ...

My Cat All My Pleasure

Gillian Darley: Georgian Life, 19 August 2010

Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England 
by Amanda Vickery.
Yale, 382 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 0 300 15453 5
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... who did not fit the norms, social or material, the outcome was often exceedingly uncomfortable. As Amanda Vickery writes in Behind Closed Doors, her sparkling, richly detailed investigation of what she calls the ‘hazy background’ to the Georgian household, ‘cruelty begins at home.’ She looks at many types and conditions of person throughout the ...

Why Darcy would not have married Elizabeth Bennet

Linda Colley: Women in Georgian England, 3 September 1998

The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Victorian England 
by Amanda Vickery.
Yale, 436 pp., £19.95, May 1998, 0 300 07531 6
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... been here before. There are echoes of the novels even in some of the characters we encounter in Amanda Vickery’s volume: the clergyman’s wife from a commercial background, for instance, who – very much in the manner of Mrs Elton – addresses her spouse as ‘Mr R’. More important, though, are the similarities in method. Austen claimed to have ...

A Girl’s Right to Have Fun

Susan Pedersen: Young Women at Work Between the Wars, 5 October 2006

Young Women, Work and Family in England 1918-50 
by Selina Todd.
Oxford, 272 pp., £50, September 2005, 0 19 928275 7
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... indeed, no sooner had gender history’s notion of ‘the rise of separate spheres’ emerged than Amanda Vickery, in a landmark article in Historical Journal, saw it off. Doorstop social histories vanished from students’ bags, and were replaced by the more depressing works of Michel Foucault. But social history never went away, and the destruction of ...

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