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Academic shortlisted for prestigious book award

Posted on 05/03/2010

Professor Amanda Vickery

Professor Amanda Vickery has been shortlisted for the 2009/2010 Pen Hessell-Tiltman Prize for her book on the Eighteenth Century ‘Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England.′


Professor Vickery, of the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London lectures on British social, political and cultural history from the 17th century to the present. She is only one of nine authors in the UK to have been shortlisted for the award. The winner, who receives £3,000 will be announced on April 19 at the London Book Fair.


Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman was a member of PEN during the 60s and 70s and on her death she bequeathed £100,000 to the PEN Literary Foundation to found a prize in her name. The prize is awarded annually for a non-fiction book of specifically historical content.


Commenting on the news, Professor Vickery said, “I am thrilled to be shortlisted. The remit is very broad: books have to be ‘of high literary merit - and can cover all historical periods up to and including the Second World War.’ I am pleased to be one of only two female authors on a short-list of nine. My intimate history is up against a squadron of dictators, warriors and emperors, as well as God.”


The book unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion; bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings; genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper; and, servants with only a locking box to call their own.


Professor Vickery makes ingenious use of upholsterer′s ledgers, burglary trials, and other unusual sources to reveal the roles of house and home in economic survival, social success, and political representation during the long 18th century. Through the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the language of taste, even modest homes turned into arenas of social campaign and exhibition


The book has received rave reviews from critics. Michael Kerrigan from the Scotsman calls it a “beautifully textured exploration of domestic life", and Frances Wilson from the Sunday Times says: "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.”


As part of the York Literary Festival at Fairfax House on March 18 Professor Vickery will provide a panoramic account of private lives in Georgian England.


For more information on Professor Vickery visit: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/history/people/Vickery_A.html


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