Writing, editing and talking about history is what I do and have done all my adult life. Since 2001 I have been a full time writer. My most recent books are The Thirties an intimate history and The Blitz: the British under attack (both published by Harper Press in 2010). I am a frequent broadcaster both on television and radio, review for the national press and periodicals and have held various academic appointments. I was the historical advisor on the film version of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement in 2007 and for the new series of Upstairs Downstairs for BBC One in 2010.
My history trail started when I read history at University College, London, where I was awarded the Meyer Prize as a first class honours finalist in 1976, and failed to finish a PhD on the reconstruction of the French Communist Party, 1945-7. I was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research and the editor of the magazine History Today in the 1980s and am now their review editor. I left History Today to take the job of academic director and then publisher at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, subsequently ran a history imprint Juliet Gardiner Books for Collins & Brown and in 1992 I had my first book, Over Here: the GIs in Wartime Britain, 1942-44, published in Britain and the US.
For the following 10 years I wrote and was the editor of a number of books including The History Today Companion to British History (ed.); The World Within: the Brontës of Haworth; Women’s Voices: The New Woman; Picture Post Women; Oscar Wilde: a life in letters, wit and writing; Queen Victoria; The Penguin Dictionary of British History (ed.); From the Bomb to the Beatles: the changing face of post war Britain. I also returned to academic life first at Middlesex University and then at Oxford Brookes University.
In 2000 I was an on screen member of the ‘War Cabinet’ in the Wall to Wall series The 1940s House for Channel Four and wrote the best selling book to accompany the programmes and in 2002 was involved in the follow up series The Edwardian Country House for which I also wrote the accompanying book.
I am a member of the Management Committee of the Society of Authors, of Hackney Conservation Architectural Advisory Committee, and of SHARP (Society for Authorship, Readership and Publishing), and have given papers at a number of their conferences as well as others.
I have talked at many author events – particularly literary festivals including Hay on Wye, Edinburgh, Charleston, Oxford, Bath, Cheltenham, Cambridge, Woodstock, Lincoln, Words on the Water, Eype and the first Chalke History Festival in July 2011.
I have given lectures at the Universities of Edinburgh, Newcastle, Exeter, Southampton, Oxford, London, Sussex, Paris, Auckland, Wellington and Vancouver and also given talks in bookshops, to historical societies, history ‘weekends’, at lunches and as an after dinner speaker most recently at an Oxford college and a livery company. In the spring of 2011 I went on a ‘blitz tour’ organized by Waterstones in conjunction with local libraries talking about my latest book at some of the cities most devastated by the 1940-41 German blitz on Britain.
I have three children and five grandchildren, live in East London and not often enough in a beautiful but not fully modernized house in the Drôme (north of Orange). I like all the usual things, writing, reading, going to the cinema and theatre (but not often fusty, expensive, cramped West End theatres), eating out, cooking (spasmodically), gardening, and seeing friends. I am very interested in 20th century art, design and architecture, and go to lots of exhibitions and galleries, buy far too many books, love doing up houses (at a cosmetic rather than a building level), do rather like shopping and clothes and am a very good brocante truffler indeed.