Friday, 30 October 2009

A History of Private Life

Autumn heralds the new season of TV and radio productions and there are two I'm currently enjoying: A History of Private Life on BBC Radio and Garrow's Law: Tales from the Old Bailey on BBC TV.

Professor Amanda Vickery (the historian and award-winning author of The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England) writes and presents A History of Private Life on BBC Radio 4. It's an ambitious project, composed of 30 quarter-hour programmes spread over six weeks, which explore the home and everything it has stood for over the past 400 years. Last week's programmes were all related to the 18th century and some are still available via the BBC's Listen Again feature.

Amanda Vickery draws on first hand accounts, from diaries, letters, wills, autobiographies, inventories, trial transcripts etc. to piece together a window on people's day to day lives. It's a format that brings history brilliantly to life and makes for great listening. The readers are wonderful and Prof. Vickery is a lively and engaging presenter. My only criticism would be some of the music choices, but, all in all, the programme is a delight. Please BBC, make it available on CD!

The episode 'Taste' which aired on 27th October tells the story of an 18th century couple who spend life doing up their magnificent houses. Listen in to the touching tale of the Earl of Shelburne and his wife Sophia while it's still available.

Amanda Vickery's book Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England, published 15th October 2009 by Yale University Press.

Garrow's Law: Tales from the Old Bailey aired last night on BBC 1 in the prime time 9 pm slot and fabulous stuff it was too. Andrew Buchan plays William Garrow, the pioneering 18th century barrister who was a passionate believer in social and legal justice.

As a defence counsel, Garrow's desire is to change the law and revolutionise the proceedings of a criminal trial forever: to give defendants the representation in court that they had never previously had, at cost not only to their innocence but also their lives. Garrow pretty much invented the art of cross examination and yet many people, including those in the legal profession, have never heard of him.

You can read more about the series here and if you are in the UK, view the first episode on BBC iplayer here.

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