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The story behind HARRIS'S LIST and the book that inspired ITV's hit drama HARLOTS
In 1757, a down-and-out Irish poet, the head-waiter at Shakespeare's Head Tavern in Covent Garden, and a celebrated London courtesan became bound together by the publication of a little book: Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies. This salacious publication detaling the names and 'specialities' of the capital's prostitutes eventually became one of the eighteenth century's most successful and scandalous literary works, selling 250,000 copies. During its heyday (1757-95) Harris's List was the essential accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure. Yet beyond its titillating passages lay a glimpse into the sex lives of those who lived and died by the List's profits during the Georgian era.
The Covent Garden Ladies tells the story of three unusual characters: Samuel Derrick, John Harrison (aka Jack Harris) and Charlotte Hayes, whose complicated and colourful lives were brought together by this publication. The true history of the book is a tragicomic opera motivated by poverty, passionate love, aspiration and shame. Its story plunges the reader down the dark alleys of eighteenth-century London's underworld, a realm populated by tavern owners, pimps, punters, card sharks and of course, a colourful range of prostitutes and brothel-keepers.
Published: 8 Nov 2012
In the early 1950s Britain was still the most urbanized and industrialized nation in the world, a global power in shipbuilding and the leading European producer of coal, steel, cars and textiles. For the many millions of men and women hard at work during that time, an infernal landscape of smoke-blackened factories, towering slag heaps and fiery furnaces dominated their lives. From the deep docks and towering cranes of the Tyneside shipyards to the mills and chimneys of Lancashire and beyond, Working Lives takes us right to the heart of those industrial centres through the words of those who were there.
Drawn together from hundreds of hours of first-hand interviews, Working Lives is a unique collection of oral testimonies from workers whose stories might not otherwise have been told: mill girls who risked life and limb in dusty, noisy weaving sheds; steel workers who wrestled sheets of white-hot metal in the blistering heat of the foundries; and miners who hewed coal by hand on filthy, cramped, claustrophobic coalfaces.
Local industries shaped these workers’ entire lives but also gave them a sense of pride, identity and belonging. As they look back on the dangers and hardships of their jobs, and the place of industry in their close-knit communities, these fascinating voices paint a vivid and moving portrait of working life in Britain not to be forgotten.
Published: 19 Jul 2012
Between 1715 and 1750, a group of politicans and poets, farmers and businessmen, heiresses and landowners began to experiment with the phenomenon that was to become the English landscape garden. Arguably the greatest British art form ever invented, these gardens were built to charm and delight, to shock and inspire all who visited. That these gardens - including Castle Howard, Stowe, Painshill and Rousham - are still so popular with visitors today is a testament to the innovation and passion of this extraordinary group of eccentrics and visionaries.
The Arcadian Friends takes a highly engaging perspective on the politics and culture of England during the Enlightenment. At the same time it will be required reading for the legions of fans of the great gardens of England.
Tim Richardson introduces us to a period of poltical and personal intrigue, where fantastic biblical landscapes competed for space with temples to sexual freedom; and where the installation of a water feature was a political act. The Arcadian Friends tells the story of a collection of fascinating characters whose influence changed the landscape of Britain for ever.
Fred Dibnah was a man born out of his time. His era should have been the 'magnificent age of British engineering' - the nineteenth century - and his heroes were the great industrial engineers of the period whose prolific innovations and dedicated work ethic inspired a national mood of optimism and captured the hearts of the British public.
Fred Dibnah's Victorian Heroes tells the stories of some of these men - including George and Robert Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Joseph Whitworth - and what it was that made them such inspirational figures to Fred. What were their backgrounds? Where did their drive and vision come from? What sort of people were they at work and at home? And what was their contribution to the history of industry and engineering?
Most of them - like Fred - were colourful, larger-than-life characters for whom no challenge was too great. Taking these fascinating characters as inspiration, Fred Dibnah's Victorian Heroes gets to the very heart of what allowed nineteenth-century Britannia to rule the waves . . .
In June 1941 the Ark Royal won one of Britain's most famous naval victories. The German destroyer, Bismarck, had been ravaging the British fleet in the Atlantic. Sailing through a ferocious storm the Ark Royal tracked the Bismarck. A dozen swordfish bombers took off from her deck and pounded shell after shell into the German battleship, sending her to the ocean floor. It was a signal victory that resonated around the world. Hitler, furious at the loss of the German fleet's flagship, demanded that the Ark Royal be destroyed at whatever cost.
HMS Ark Royal is one of the Royal Navy's most iconic ships. When she was launched in 1938 she was one of the most sophisticated weapons at the disposal of British military command. The aircraft carrier was the latest, and soon to be one of the most feared, developments in naval warfare. In her first two years of operation the Ark Royal survived countless attacks, and was considered one of the luckiest ships in the Navy.
But her air of invincibility was to prove wishful thinking. Within one month of sinking the Bismarck, the Ark Royal too was destroyed while sailing off the coast of Gibraltar. And there she has rested, one kilometre below the surface of the Mediterranean, until her wreck was discovered by Mike Rossiter in 2004.
In gripping detail, and using the testimony of survivors of the sinking and men who lived, flew and fought on the Ark Royal, Mike Rossiter tells the remarkable story of the life and legend of this most iconic of ships. Also, and for the first time, he reveals the story of the quest to discover the wreck of this naval legend.
"Footeballe is nothinge but beastlie furie and extreme violence", wrote Thomas Elyot in 1531. Nearly five hundred years later, the game may still seem furious and violent, but it has also become the most popular sport on the planet.
This is the story of how the modern, professional, spectator sport of football was born in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century. It's a tale of testosterone-filled public schoolboys, eccentric mill-owners and bolshy miners, and of why we play football the way we do. Who invented heading? Why do we have an offside law? And why are foreigners so much better than us at the game we invented?
Based on exhaustive research, Beastly Fury picks apart the complex processes which forged the modern game, turning accepted wisdom on its head. It's a story which is strangely familiar - of grasping players, corrupt clubs and autocratic officials. It's a tale of brutality, but at times too, of surprising artistry. Above all it's a story of how football, uniquely among the sports of that era, became what it is today - the people's game.
Published: 15 Dec 2010
In 44 bc, Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March. His mistress, Cleopatra of Egypt, fled back to Alexandria with their little son. Mark Antony, Caesar's friend and henchman, who, according to some accounts, was already besotted by the beautiful Cleopatra, took up her son's case before the Senate. But they refused to recognize him as one of Caesar's heirs.
Civil war broke out, and after the defeat of Caesar's murderers, Antony took control over the East. Summoned to his headquarters in present-day Turkey, Cleopatra made her entry at dusk on a scented, candlelit barge: and so began one of the greatest love stories of all time - an eleven-year love affair that created the ancient world's most famous celebrity couple. The affair became all-consuming and fired the lovers with the ambition to create a new order. Had they succeeded, our world today might have been very different.
Filled with murder, intrigue, civil war and great battles, the tragedy of Cleopatra and Antony has fascinated the world for two millennia, and has been depicted by everyone from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the iconic 1960s film.
Now Diana Preston has gone back to the original sources and delved into the real history behind the propaganda and the myth, to breathe new life into this epic love story.
Published: 4 Sep 2008