This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful.Find sources: "Vic Gatrell" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (August 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Vic Gatrell at the IHR LondonFebruary 2016
Vic Gatrell at the IHR London
February 2016

Vic Gatrell (or V.A.C. Gatrell) is a British historian. He is a Life Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


Born to working-class immigrant Londoners in South Africa, Gatrell went to state schools in Pietermaritzburg and Port Elizabeth and then to Rhodes University, where he graduated with first-class Honours, and won an Elsie Ballot scholarship to Cambridge. At St John's College he took first-class honours in history and completed his Ph.D. on 'The Commercial Middle Class in Manchester 1820–1857', before becoming a research fellow and then a teaching fellow of Gonville and Caius College.

In the Cambridge History Faculty Gatrell was appointed Lecturer in British Economic and Social History in 1971, and then Reader in British history. He co-edited The Historical Journal, 1976–1986. He is among the pioneer scholars who have worked on the history of crime and punishment, and then on the history of emotions. He became Professor of British History at the University of Essex 2003–2009. He returned to Cambridge in 2009 as a professorial Life Fellow of Caius, and now lives there.[citation needed]

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, and it is still in print.


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 Britain's premier history prize, the Wolfson Prize for History. It also 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.[1]

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.[citation needed]

Each of these books has resulted in extensive television and radio contributions and book festival talks. In 2010 Alastair Lawrence's BBC4 television series 'Rude Britannia' was underpinned by Gatrell's 'City of Laughter'.[2]

Gatrell's Conspiracy on Cato Street: Liberty and Revolution in Regency London will be published by Cambridge University Press in April 2022.[3] The book was anticipated in his 2020 lecture on the Cato Street Conspiracy for Gresham College.[4]

Awards and honours

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Vic Gatrell" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Select bibliography


  1. ^ "BBC - BBC Four - The Samuel Johnson Prize 2007 - Longlist". Archived from the original on 23 May 2007.
  2. ^ "Rude Britannia Series 1, Episode 1 - A History Most Satirical, Bawdy, Lewd and Offensive".
  3. ^ "Conspiracy on Cato Street | British history after 1450".
  4. ^ "Vic Gatrell".
  5. ^ "wyvern:extra". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link) Honour for Essex historian
  6. ^ "The Canon: The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868. By V.A.C. Gatrell". Times Higher Education. 12 August 2010.
  7. ^ Timothy R. Smith (9 April 2014). "David Reynolds wins PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 June 2014.