I’ve been enjoying a daily fix of history from Amanda Vickery, and I just had to share it! Vickery, a British historian, is well-known to Jane Austen fans as the host of the 2013 TV show “Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball,” which recreated all the elements of a Regency ball like Mr. Bingley held at Netherfield. She is also the author of two books that I devoured as research for this project, The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (1998) and Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (2009).
BBC Radio 4 is currently reprising a fascinating radio show Vickery presented in 2009, based on her research for those books. “A History of Private Life” deals with all aspects of domestic social history in Britain, from the bachelor’s lodgings to the marriage bed to the widow’s garret. It’s an ambitious series that consists of thirty 15-minute episodes and deals with material from four centuries, although the emphasis is on the 18th and 19th centuries. If you’ve read her books or watched her BBC TV series “At Home with the Georgians” you’ll hear many familiar names and stories, since all are based on the the troves of private letters, diaries and court records Vickery explores in her research. Even so, I’ve enjoyed listening daily- each episode is a little gem of historical story-telling.
If you’re intrigued, most of the previously aired episodes can be heard on the BBC radio iplayer all around the world! As a little taste, I’ve selected a few episodes that have most to do with elegant accomplishments to link to:
Episode 12: Domestic Harmony – Using the diary of John Courtney, a Yorkshire bachelor gentleman of the 1760s, Vickery shows how the musical accomplishments of young ladies and gentleman brought them together and sometimes led to marriage.
Episode 23: Science and Nature at Home – My favorite episode to date, since it brings together handicrafts pursued by elegant ladies and fashionable scientific collecting- from shellwork to paper collage to a room entirely covered with feathers!