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Vic Gatrell (or V.A.C. Gatrell) is a Life Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Born in South Africa in 1941, he graduated with Honours from Rhodes University before winning an Elsie Ballot scholarship to Cambridge. At St John's College he took first-class honours in history and completed his Ph.D., before becoming a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. In the Cambridge History Faculty he was Lecturer and then Reader in British history, and co-editor of The Historical Journal, 1976-1986. He was among the pioneer scholars working on the history of crime and punishment. He became Professor of British History at the University of Essex 2003–9. He retained his Fellowship in Caius, and returned to Cambridge in 2009, where he now lives.
His The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868 (Oxford, 1994) won the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize, and was nominated as one of the historical Canon in the Times Higher Education Supplement, 2010. It is a seminal study of changing attitudes to and emotions about capital punishment across a period of profound cultural change.
His City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-century London (Atlantic, 2006) is a study of satirical caricature and manners from 1780 to 1830. It was joint winner of the Wolfson Prize for History, won the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, was shortlisted for the Authors' Club Banister Fletcher Award for art history, and was listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
His The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age (Allen Lane and Penguin, 2013) is a history of 'proto-bohemian' Covent Garden and the 'lower' art world in eighteenth-century London. It argues for the significance of the arts that celebrated 'real life' in that era. It was shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize.
Awards and honours
- 1976 T.S.Ashton Prize of the Economic History Society, winner for 'Labour Power and the Size of Firms in the Lancashire Cotton Industry', Economic History Review, XXX (1), Feb 1977
- 1994 The Whitfield Prize of the Royal Historical Society, winner for The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People
- 1997 Senior Visiting Fellow, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
- 2002 Visiting Fellow, Australian National University, Canberra
- 2006 Wolfson History Prize, City of Laughter
- 2006 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, winner for City of Laughter
- 2006 Authors' Club Banister Fletcher Award in art history, shortlisted for City of Laughter
- 2006 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, listed for City of Laughter
- 2010 Times Higher Education Hanging Tree in 'The Canon' of seminal works
- 2013 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize shortlist for The First Bohemians
- Robert Owen: A New View of Society and Report to the County of Lanark (Penguin, 1971)
- Crime and the Law: the Social History of Crime in Western Europe since 1500 (Europa, 1980) (with Bruce Lenman and Geoffrey Parker)
- The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868 (Oxford, 1994)
- City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-century London (Atlantic, 2006)
- Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England (Vassar College, 2010), by Patricia Phagan, Vic Gatrell and Amelia Rauser (exhibition catalogue and texts)
- The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age (Allen Lane, 2013)
- "wyvern:extra". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007. Honour for Essex historian
- "The Canon: The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868. By V.A.C. Gatrell". Times Higher Education. 12 August 2010.
- Timothy R. Smith (April 9, 2014). "David Reynolds wins PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize". Washington Post. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
- Staff page on the Essex University website
-  Matthew Reisz, 'Past Mistakes', Higher Educational Supplement 15 October 2009
-  'Vic Gatrell explains what impels his writing'. History Today, May 2007; https://web.archive.org/web/20150207125307/http://www.wolfson.org.uk/history-prize/previous-winners/. http://www.englishpen.org/events/prizes/hessell-tiltman-prize/
-  Gonville and Caius Fellows