Kate Williams (historian)

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Kate Williams
Education Edgbaston High School for Girls, Birmingham
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford
University of London
Occupation Historian, author, and TV presenter
Website Kate Williams

Kate Williams, Professor of History at the University of Reading, is a British author, historian and television presenter.

Early life and education[edit]

Williams was educated at Edgbaston High School for Girls, Birmingham. She has a BA and DPhil from Somerville College, Oxford, where she started as a College Scholar and received the Violet Vaughan Morgan University Scholarship. She has MAs from Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London.[1] She began researching Emma Hamilton while studying for her doctorate.


Williams has lectured MA degree studies in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. In summer of 2015 Kate took up a role as Professor of History at the University of Reading


Williams has had academic essays published in various journals and books:

  • "The Force of Language and the Sweets of Love: Eliza Haywood and the Erotics of Reading in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa" in Lumen.
  • "Nelson and Women" in Admiral Lord Nelson: Context & Legacy, ed. David Cannadine.
  • "Reading Tristram Shandy in the Brothel" in The Shandean, 16.
  • "Passion in Translation: 1720s Amatory Writers and the Novel" in Remapping the Rise of the Novel, ed. Jenny Mander.
  • "The Rise of the Novel" in The History of British Women's Writing 1690–1750, ed. Ros Ballaster.

Williams writes articles on history for British newspapers including The Daily Telegraph,[2] and reviews for BBC History, History Today[3] and the Financial Times.[4]

In 2010 she was a judge for the Biographer's Club Tony Lothian First Biography Prize,[5] the Book Drum Tournament 2010,[6] and the Litro/IGGY International Young Person's Short Story Award.[7]

A short story, "The Weakness of Hearts", was published in issue 104 of Litro literary magazine.[8]


Her first book, England's Mistress, a biography of Emma Hamilton, was published by Random House in the UK and US (under the imprint Ballantine Books). It was short-listed for the Marsh/English Speaking Union Prize for the best biography of 2005–06, was selected as a Book of the Year in The Times and The Independent, and broadcast as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. The film is in production with Picture Palace,[9] and a stage musical is also in development.

Becoming Queen, about the youth of Queen Victoria and her cousin, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, was published in 2008. It was serialised in the The Sunday Telegraph[10] and it was a Book of the Year in the The Spectator and Tatler. The Times selected it as one of the Top 50 Paperbacks of 2009.[11]

Her third biography for Random House, entitled "Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon" looks at the life of Joséphine de Beauharnais and was published in 2013. In this triumphant biography, Kate Williams tells Josephine's searing story, of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man's world.[12]

Williams has written a biography of the formative years of Queen Elizabeth II, entitled Young Elizabeth: The Making of Our Queen.[13] It was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, part of Orion Books, in May 2012. The audio book version is read by Williams herself.[14]

Along with Alison Weir, Tracy Borman and Sarah Gristwood, Williams wrote The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings 1066–2011. The book was published by Random House, and was serialised in the Daily Telegraph.[15]

Williams's first novel, The Pleasures of Men, about a young girl obsessed with a serial killer in Spitalfields in 1840, was published by Penguin Books in the UK and Disney Hyperion in the US and in Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Brazil.[16]

William’s second novel, The Storms of War, was published in 2014 by Orion. Set during the First World War, the novel follows the lives of an Anglo-German family struggling to survive the home front. Once popular with their neighbours, they are now shunned by society which affects each member individually. Despite these differences, their effort towards the war on the British side does not waver and through these war experiences they learn some of the most valuable lessons in life and family relationships. A review in The Independent outlines the essence of William’s novel, and ends with high acclaim for her second piece of fiction.[17]

The second in the series, The Edge of the Fall, will be published in November 2015 also by Orion.

Date Title Publisher
Fiction 2012 The Pleasures of Men Penguin
2014 The Storms of War Orion
2015 The Edge of the Fall Orion
Non-Fiction 2012 Young Elizabeth: The Making of our Queen Weidenfeld

& Nicolson

2006 England's Mistress: The Infamous life of Emma Hamilton Ballantine (Random House)
2008 Becoming Queen Hutchinson
2013 Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon Hutchinson

Television and radio[edit]

Williams appears frequently on radio and TV as a presenter and expert, specialising in social, constitutional and royal history. She commented extensively on the 2011 royal wedding and appears often on BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, The Review Show, Sky News, BBC News 24, the Today programme, Broadcasting House, Night Waves, Woman's Hour, Channel Five and various American channels, discussing history and culture and reviewing the news. She covered the Queen's Address to Parliament on BBC One in 2012 and the Queen's Speech for BBC Parliament.

Williams was the social historian on BBC2 series Restoration Home, which aired from 2011 to 2013.[18]

She presented Timewatch: Young Victoria for BBC2,[19] acclaimed by The Guardian as "telly history at its best"[20] and The Secret History of Edward VII for Channel Five.[21]

She appears often on documentaries, discussing history, literature and culture, including Faulks on Fiction and all three series of The Great British Bake Off, as well as documentaries on subjects including Queen Victoria, Balmoral, Sherlock Holmes,[22] Jack the Ripper, Nelson's Trafalgar and Elizabeth II.

She wrote and presented the documentary The Grandfather of Self-Help, about Samuel Smiles, for BBC Radio 4.[23] She is also the presenter of a Radio 4 documentary on the history of the smile, broadcast in June 2012.

Williams is the "Historian in Residence" in Frank Skinner's 2014 radio show The Rest Is History.

Williams is a regular panelist on The Quizeum, which began airing in spring 2015.



  1. ^ "About Kate". Kate Williams. 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Williams, Kate (31 March 2009). "History's not just for the boys, Dr. Starkey". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Williams, Kate. "Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe 1807-1814". History Today 60 (3 March 2010). Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Williams, Kate (12 July 2010). "Theodora review". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Winners Of This Year's Tony Lothian Prize and Best First Biography Prize". Book Trade. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "The 2011 Book Drum Tournament". Book Drum. 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Introducing the Litro & IGGY International Short Story Award for Young Writers". Litro. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "The Weakness of Hearts by Kate Williams". Litro. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Picture Palace - England's Mistress". Picture Palace. 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  10. ^ Williams, Kate (14 September 2008). "Queen Victoria: the original people's princess - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Bookseller article[dead link]
  12. ^ "Ambition and Desire". Goodreads. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  13. ^ "Kate Williams - Young Elizabeth". Orion Publishing Group. 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Young Elizabeth narrated by Kate Williams". Audible. 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Royal wedding: The Ring and the Crown - a command performance". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). 28 March 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Agent's website [dead link]
  17. ^ "The Storms of War by Kate Williams - book review: Tantalising tale of one family's battle on the home front". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  18. ^ BBC Programme page [dead link]
  19. ^ "Timewatch - Young Victoria". BBC. 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  20. ^ Wollaston, Sam (20 October 2008). "Sam Wollaston on the weekend's TV". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  21. ^ "Productions - Revealed: Camilla's Family Affair". Lion TV. 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  22. ^ STV article [dead link]
  23. ^ "The Grandfather of Self Help". BBC Radio 4 Extra. 4 January 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 

External links[edit]