Posts Tagged ‘A History of Private Life’

Review: A History of Private Life

10 October 2009

Contributed by Léan Ní Chléirigh

Amanda VickeryKevin O’ Sullivan’s recent rage against ‘diet history, history zero, history free,’ highlights the problem broadcasters face every day when trying to provide sincere, interesting history to an audience which claims to like history yet puts on the kettle or worse, CSI, at the mention of two or more dates in the same five minutes. Channel 4 has opted for the already-famous-presenter-but-not-historian, Kevin McCloud, who adds in his own bizarre analogies between the Medici and ‘Dynasty’. Another tack is to go for a ‘cool,’ young historian who has done the research themselves but finds it a bit too exciting, (bordering on arousing) and pitch it with a dose of jingoism which informs without challenging, see Bettany Hughes and Tristram Hunt. BBC Radio 4 has another plan. It takes an internationally respected historian, gives them 400 years and lets them loose. But here’s the clever part, each programme tackles a compact subject and lasts only fifteen minutes. ‘A History of Private Life’ is born.

Amanda Vickery, a high profile and respected historian of gender and social history from Royal Holloway University of London, is supremely qualified to write and present this series which ‘reveals the hidden history of home over 400 years.’ Her research, and therefore the series, relies heavily on the letters and diaries of men and women and is augmented with reference to contemporary literature, didactic works and court records as well as any other sources she can get her hands on. The result is a really good history series which manages to get the balance right, pitching it at an interested public while allowing those of us with a bit more knowledge to nod along wisely to the radio, our egos intact.

‘A History of Private Life,’ is testament to what a clever producer can achieve with a good historian. Read more