Susanna Morgan, a 19th century reformer in Bristol
Bristol-born Susanna Morgan (1772-1856) was a philanthropist and campaigner in a number of causes, including the relief of poverty, education for poor children, and prison design, but her work has been mostly forgotten. In his fascinating book Susanna Morgan: campaigning for reform in early 19th-century Bristol (ALHA Books, 2022), Michael Whitfield retrieves her story. You can read my review of the book for the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society on the BGAS website (PDF download).
The Story of Bet Carter, A Convict to New South Wales
A brief mention of Bet Carter in Scottish radical T F Palmer’s account of his voyage to Botany Bay prompted me to find out more about her. Bet was transported on the same ship as Palmer and his fellow Scottish Martyrs – campaigners for franchise reform – and she was unlucky enough to be caught up in an alleged mutiny plot. I piece together her story in this guest blog for the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network (a version of which was originally published on my blog).
The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing: a Talk at HULF
I gave a short talk on ‘The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing’ at the Crime, Thriller and Mystery Books event at Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival on 30 April 2022. This was followed by Debbie Young’s fascinating talk on ‘The Golden Age of Detective Fiction’. We then joined in a panel discussion with thriller writers A Abbott and Valerie Keogh. What nicer way to spend an afternoon than talking about detectives and listening to readings – with tea and cake included!
You can read an extended version of ‘The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing’ on my blog, or download The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing.pdf here.
Crime, Mystery and Thriller Writers – me (on left) and Debbie Young at the back, and Valerie Keogh (on left) and A A Abbott seated front with ‘Sherlock Ted’.
People and Places – an article for the Historical Novels Review
Is there such a thing as a sense of place? Do places have atmospheres that we can sense? And how can historical novelists harness these responses in their fiction? I spoke to best-selling author Nicola Cornick about her timeslip novels, which are all set in old houses with secrets to tell, for the Historical Novels Review, February 2022. The article is republished on my blog and can also be read or downloaded here as a PDF document. Read People and Places.
Best Historical Books About the Common People
I was recently asked by Shepherd.com, a new book-discovery website for readers, to pick out my top five books about the common people.
The books I chose are a mix of fiction and non-fiction. They include the brilliant City of Beasts: How Animals Shaped Georgian London by Thomas Almeroth-Williams, which I raved about in the review on my blog.
Read my recommendations at Shepherd.com here Best Historical Books About the Common People.
Brewers Drays, from A New Book of Horses and Carriages 1794, Thomas Rowlandson, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain
Writing To The Fair Land on YouTube
I’ve recently completed the first in a planned series of short presentations – around ten to fifteen minutes long – which will be made available on YouTube, ‘Writing To The Fair Land’.
To The Fair Land is a historical mystery with elements of fantasy, which tells the story of one young man’s quest to discover the truth about a voyage of discovery to the Pacific to look for the mythical Great Southern Continent. In this talk I look at the history behind the story…
Future topics for the short talks will include the campaign for votes for women, women’s history, biography, and writing historical fiction.
Thanks to the woman who did the typing
“My thanks are due also to my secretaries, Miss Esther Knowles and Miss Gladys Groom, for turning their task of typing the MS into a labour of love”.
With these words Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, one-time leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union, Labour MP, and secretary of state for India acknowledged the work of the women who typed the manuscript of his autobiography, Fate Has Been Kind (1943). It’s often struck me how many books include thanks to the women who did the typing. In a blog published on the Women’s History Network blog I take a closer look at the women whose work was so essential but rarely visible. Read Thanks to the woman who did the typing on the WHN blog
Picture Credit: The Women’s Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions
Writing the Life of Suffrage Campaigner, Millicent Price
In a guest blog for the national Women’s History Network Blog I look at why I chose to write a biography of suffrage campaigner, Millicent Price (née Browne). She’s not particularly well known, and although she started out in the WSPU, she later rejected suffragette militancy. And that’s one of the things that makes her so interesting! Find out why in Writing the Life of Suffrage Campaigner, Millicent Price
Discovering Diamonds Sunday Guest Spot
Cat, dog, or budgie? TV favourites? Desert island books? I answered these and other vital questions on Helen Hollick’s Discovering Diamonds Sunday Guest Spot – and managed to talk about the Dan Foster Mysteries, To The Fair Land and The Bristol Suffragettes as well! You can read the Discovering Diamonds Sunday Guest Spot here.
Women’s War Work and the Vote
The Devil’s Porridge Museum in Scotland is devoted to telling the stories of the munitions workers at HM Factory, Gretna. On 20 May 2021 I spoke about the impact of the war on the women’s suffrage campaign (“Does she deserve the vote?”: Women’s First World War Work and Women’s Franchise) at their Women in War Conference (on Zoom), and then I sat back to listen to fellow-speakers on a variety of fascinating subjects. They included talks on women’s football, Greenham Common and women railway workers. If you missed the two-day conference, you can access the recordings at https://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/product-tag/conference, at a cost of £10.
Travels With My Book: To The Fair Land
“It was a myth, yet people still risked their lives looking for it.”
Author Debbie Young has recently launched a new series on her blog, Travels With My Book, in which writers answer questions about the settings of their books. I was delighted to contribute to the series with a blog about To The Fair Land, which is set in the imagined Fair Land, as well as literary London and maritime Bristol in the eighteenth century. In the blog I discuss the origins of the Fair Land and the history that underpins the fantasy. You can read Travels With My Book: To The Fair Land here.
Picture: A seventeenth-century map of the world showing Terris Australis Incognita (the Great Southern Continent); The British Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions
Suffrage Autographs – Cicely Hamilton
I recently acquired an autograph by one of my favourite authors and suffrage campaigners, Cicely Hamilton. Collecting autographs was very popular amongst suffrage campaigners, who often gathered one another’s signatures while in prison.
Cicely Hamilton was a member of the Women’s Freedom League and the Actresses’ Franchise League, wrote the words to the suffragette anthem The March of the Women, and a wrote the suffrage plays How the Vote Was Won and A Pageant of Great Women. You can find out more about suffrage autographs in my blog Suffrage Autographs – Cicely Hamilton.