Amanda Foreman (historian)

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Foreman at the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Awards, March 2012

Amanda Lucy Foreman (born 1968) is a British/American biographer and historian.


Foreman was born in London. Her parents were Evelyn (Smith) and the screenwriter and film producer Carl Foreman (1914–1984). Her father moved to England to work after being blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios during the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Her brother, Jonathan Foreman, is an international correspondent and film critic. She has five children and is married to Jonathan Barton.


Amanda Foreman was educated at Hanford School, a girls' junior independent school in southwest England,[1] followed by various girls' boarding schools. She attended Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, then Columbia University, before returning to England in 1991. She was awarded the 1993 Henrietta Jex Blake Senior Scholarship at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. At Oxford, Foreman completed an MPhil thesis Politics or Providence?: Why the Houses of Parliament voted to abolish the slave trade in 1807 (1993) and a DPhil with her thesis The political life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, 1757–1806 (1998) which was then turned into her first biography.



After completing her DPhil, Foreman remained at Oxford as a researcher, and in 1998, she published her first book, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, based on her doctoral thesis. Published by HarperCollins in the UK and Random House in the US, the book was an international best-seller and reached number one in the UK as a hardback, paperback, and reissue nine years later. It was shortlisted for the 1998 Guardian First Book Prize, and won the 1998 Whitbread Prize for Best Biography.[2] The book has been the subject of a television documentary, a radio play, starring Judi Dench, and a film, The Duchess, starring Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley.[3]

A World on Fire[edit]

Foreman's most recent book, A World on Fire, a history of British-American relations in the American Civil War, was published in 2010 by Penguin in the UK on 30 June, and in 2011 by Random House in the US. It has been optioned by BBC Worldwide. The book was a critical success in both countries and a national best-seller in the US. Writing in The Guardian, Jay Parini stated, "One can hardly overestimate the brilliance of Foreman's conception, seeing this turning point in American history from a British viewpoint, drawing on a vast range of actors on this great stage, including lesser-known British sympathisers who fought on either side in this conflict or journalists."[4] Adam I.P. Smith of History Today said, "Amanda Foreman's magnificent new book . . . resembles nothing so much as War and Peace."[5] In a rare accolade, The New York Times Book Review awarded Foreman her second cover review.[6] Michael Burlingame of The Wall Street Journal heralded Foreman as "such an engaging writer that readers may find this 958-page volume too short".[7] Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker wrote: "The pages fly like the wind – like Gone with the Wind – because there's so much life, so much action, and so many vivid people in them."[8]

In 2011, A World on Fire was "highly commended" by the judges of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize. It was chosen as a "Book of the Year" by The New Yorker[9] and The Economist[10] and named one of the "Ten Best Books of 2011" by The New York Times,[11] Bloomberg,[12] The Washington Post,[13] the Chicago Tribune,[14] and NPR.[15]

In 2012, A World on Fire won the Fletcher Pratt Award for excellence in Civil War history writing. It was a finalist for the 2012 Lincoln Prize, the Lionel Gelber Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was also nominated for the Jefferson Davis Prize.


Amanda Foreman's other influential work includes a meditation on the role of the historian for BBC Radio 3,[16] a discussion of the Anglo-American relationship for Andrew Neil's This Week on BBC One,[17] a cover interview with Emma Watson for the July 2011 issue of Vogue,[18] and a cover story on Margaret Thatcher for Newsweek in December 2011,[19] followed by a reflection on Thatcher's life and legacy after the politician's death in April 2013.[20] Foreman has graced the covers of both The Sunday Times Magazine and The Lady in the UK.[21]

Foreman has been an ardent campaigner for justice for Jean McConville, a Belfast widow and mother of ten murdered by the IRA in 1972, and has had many articles and stories on this topic featured in the British press.[22]

Foreman has served as a judge on the Guardian First Book Award (1999), the Orange Prize for Fiction (2000), the National Book Award (2010), the Cheltenham Booker Prize (2011), the Dan David Prize (2012), the Pen Hessell-Tiltman Prize (2012), and the Man Booker Prize (2012).

In 2013, Foreman began writing "Historically Speaking", a biweekly column on history and world affairs, for The Wall Street Journal.[23] In 2014, she also joined Smithsonian magazine, and The Sunday Times as a regular columnist for the column A View from Afar.

Ascent of Woman[edit]

In September 2015, Ascent of woman, Foreman's acclaimed four part documentary regarding the role of women in society, was first aired on BBC 2.[24]

Foreman's next book, "The World Made by Women: A History of Women from the Dawn of Civilization", is slated for publication by Random House (US) and Allen Lane (UK) in 2016. She is also making a documentary series on the history of women for the BBC.

Personal life[edit]

Foreman has dual citizenship, and splits her time between New York City, Kinderhook, NY, and London. She is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, Queen Mary, University of London.[25]

In August 2014, Foreman was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[26]


  1. ^ "New prospectus shows Hanford's unique approach to learning". Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "Costa Book Awards Archive". Costa Coffee. Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Duchess (2008)". IMDb. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Parini, Jay (26 November 2010). "A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided by Amanda Foreman – Review". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Smith, Adam I. P. (19 January 2011). "A World on Fire". History Today. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (30 June 2011). "How the British Nearly Supported the Confederacy". The New York Times Review of Books. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Burlingame, Michael (25 June 2011). "When Cotton Wasn't King". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Hertzberg, Hendrik (1 August 2011). "Over There". The New Yorker: 62. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "A Year's Reading: Reviewers' Favorites from 2011". The New Yorker. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Page Turners". The Economist. 2 December 2010. 
  11. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2011". The New York Times. 30 November 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Muchnick, Laurie. "King's New Kennedy, Greenblatt finds 'Swerve' in Top 2011 Books". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Notable Nonfiction of 2011". The Washington Post. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  14. ^ Kloberdanz, Kristin (17 December 2011). "Favorites of 2011: Chicago-area Authors". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Pearl, Nancy. "Books with Personality: Nancy Pearl's 2011 Picks". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "What is History, Today?". The Essay. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  17. ^ Neil, Andrew. "This Week". BBC One. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Foreman, Amanda (July 2011). "Emma Watson's New Day". Vogue. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Foreman, Amanda (26 December 2011). "The New Thatcher Era". Newsweek: 32–40. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  20. ^ Foreman, Amanda. "Margaret Thatcher: The Accidental Feminist". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Turner, Amy (17 October 2010). "The Lady is for Page-Turning". The Sunday Times Magazine. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Foreman, Amanda (4 December 2010). "Sinn Féin should never be able to escape Jean McConville's ghost". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  23. ^ Foreman, Amanda (17 May 2013). "Historically Speaking: The Tyranny of the Micromanager". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  24. ^ "Why I'm shouting about the 4,000 year campaign to gag women in our history books". 
  25. ^ "Dr. Amanda Foreman". Center for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL). Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 


  • Foreman, Amanda. The World Made by Women: A History of Womankind from the Age of Cleopatra to the Era of Hillary Clinton. Forthcoming in 2016.
  • Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided (Penguin, 2010), 988 pp. ISBN 1-846-14204-0 OCLC 640084044 Reissued as A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
  • Foreman, Amanda. The Duchess (Random House, 2008), 456 pp. ISBN 0812979699 OCLC 234316192 Originally published as Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire.
  • Foreman, Amanda. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (Random House, 2001), 512 pp. ISBN 0-375-50294-7 OCLC 41278384 Another ed. was published By HarperCollins in 2000.
  • Foreman, Amanda. Georgiana's World: The Illustrated Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. London: HarperCollins, 2001. ISBN 0-007-12276-4 OCLC 48782725


External links[edit]