Blog, books, Bristol

Books: Reading, New, and Free!

I’ve been so busy with my university course (you can find out more about that here) I’ve barely had a chance to read anything apart from text books since the summer. I’ve borrowed so many books on Thomas Hardy, H.E.Bates and more from Gloucestershire University’s library I’ll have to transport them back in shifts!

With two assessments due in this week, I’ve sadly neglected this blog, but from today things are going to change. Term ends on Friday this week, so I’m hoping to have lots of time for tinkering with this site. If you can think of any improvements, please let me know.

This week began with some great news. At long last I have a publication date for my non-fiction book,  Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol. It’ll be released on 28th February 2019. That feels like a lifetime away, but it’s only just over eleven weeks.

Here’s the blurb…

It’s freezing, pitch black, and silent- apart from the sound of rats under the bed your wheezing children share. Snow has blown in under the door overnight. Fetching all the water you need from the communal well will be a slippery job today. If your husband gives you some money, your family can eat. If not, hard luck. You’ll all have to go hungry. Welcome to the life of a Victorian woman living in one of Bristol’s riverside tenements.

I’ve had a go at creating an Amazon link, so you can buy with one click. Here it is—please let me know if it works for you!

 

Bristol, history, Reference, Struggle and Suffrage: Women's Lives In Bristol 1850-1950

Review: Women and The City: Bristol 1373-2000, Edited by Dr Madge Dresser

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-City-1373-2000-Madge-Dresser/dp/190832631X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514970849&sr=8-1&keywords=madge+dresser
Find out more at http://amzn.to/2Cgv5r0
Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 is a collection of essays by respected academics. It’s a lively, absorbing read. A good balance has been struck between well-written prose and contemporary illustrations. The book and its content is presented in a way that invites even a casual reader to keep turning the pages. There’s a handy list of abbreviations right at the front, which is much easier than having to flick through to the index, or notes, each time a set of initials pops up in the text. Other academic works would do well to follow this example.
 
I bought Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 to help with research for my own book, Struggle and Suffrage: Women’s Lives in Bristol 1850-1950, but after studying the sections relevant to my own work I went straight back to the beginning of the book and read it all. It’s a mine of information for anyone with an enquiring mind. I’d particularly recommend it to aspiring historical novelists in search of inspiration. The fact that a woman (Ann Barry) held the lease of that stronghold of “Enlightened” masculinity, the Exchange Coffee House in Corn Street offers all sorts of dramatic possibilities, for example. It’s often forgotten that Bristol women struck a significant blow in the fight against slavery. The formation of the Bristol and Clifton Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society is never as widely reported as Bristol’s part in that terrible trade. This book helps to put that right. 
 
Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000 is curated by Associate Professor of History at the University of the West of England and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Dr Madge Dresser. The breadth of its content and unique style of each contributor makes for a fascinating read. It offers great insight into the history of Bristol and its people. Anyone who knows the city will look at local landmarks with new eyes after reading it.  
 

 

To sum up, this is an invaluable collection for historians, and anyone interested in women’s studies. It’s also an inspiring read for the rest of us.
Archives, Bristol, Women Of Bristol 1850-1950

Making A Start

Balloon Fiesta Flights Over Bristol

I love writing, and for the past few years I’ve been working in the soft and seductive landscape of romance. It’s been a lovely and productive time for me, and you can see a full list of my published books (together with their cover art) here.

Much as I love fiction, my career started with non-fiction and to be honest, there are times when I’ve missed it. So when I was offered the chance to write the Bristol edition of Pen and Sword Books’ Women’s Lives, 1850-1950, I jumped at it. I was born in what used to be little more than a village half-way between Bristol and Bath, so this was an opportunity to go back to my roots in more ways than one.

The first thing I did toward my new project was to open a spreadsheet and start a timeline. The top row is national events. For example, I’ve included the censuses from March 1851 onwards, to the publication of George Orwell’s 1984 in 1949. The second row of my database shows milestones in the history of Bristol between 1850-1950. The third row is notable details in the lives of Bristolian women.

Then I had a brainstorming session, listing the seven major areas of interest: education, home life, health, entertainment, working outside the home, entertainment, and finally politics and protest. The Women’s Lives, 1850-1950 series will be published in 2018, to coincide with the centenary of the first women being given the vote in England.

Once I had this organised, I slotted all the information I mined from the Bristol Archives under one heading or another, cross-referenceing as I went. It’s saving me a lot of time. As I was working, I met some female family historians who were kind enough to give me some anecdotes for my book. It all added up to an invaluable start to my project.

Now I have to collate all this information, and work it up into a text worthy of all these remarkable local women. Given that the years 1850-1950 was a century filled with innovation, bravery and self-sacrifice, shot through with the down-to-earth humour of Bristolians, that shouldn’t be too hard.

My only problem will be what to leave out. I’ve got enough material for half a dozen books—not just one!

Bristol, non-fiction, Representation of the People Act 1918, research, Women Of Bristol 1850-1950, Women's Lives

What Do You Know…about Bristol?

Clifton Suspension Bridge

I’m starting an exciting new non-fiction project. Women’s Lives is a series of books to be published by Pen And Sword Books  in 2018, to coincide with the centenary of women over the age of thirty being given the vote in the Representation Of The People Act.

One volume of Women’s Lives will be devoted to a single city in the United Kingdom. My family have strong ties with the city of Bristol, which go back hundreds of years. I was born a few miles away in a village which was then in the Somerset countryside but is now on the outskirts of the city. My first full-time job was in the Bristol offices of a life-assurance company, and after I married I  went to work for Rolls-Royce Aero in Filton

Ancient And Modern…

When I heard about the Pen And Sword project I was keen to get involved. I’ve been writing romance for a long time, but I started my writing career contributing non-fiction articles to newspapers and magazines. This was too good a chance to miss, so I’ve now started work on the Bristol edition of the series.

In writing Women’s Lives: Women of Bristol 1850-1950 I’ll be going back to my roots in a big way. It will mean spending a lot of time combing through the archives, but nothing beats a real-life anecdote.

Do you have any stories to share about life in the City of Bristol in the years before 1950?