My name is Amanda Wilkinson, and I am an economic and social historian. Although I started out on my studies as an Early Modernist, fascinated with the Tudor and Stuart kings and queens, the lords and ladies of the courts and the intrigue and politics of the time, I quickly realised that my real passion lay in researching ‘real’ people, the little people, the men and women who rarely leave any mark on history. My interest moved to the Victorian period, and, having discovered the censuses of England and Wales and fully appreciating the depth of information contained within them, well, the rest was, as they say, history. My BA and MA dissertations examined the growth and development of villages in Essex, considering the effect of middle-class ideologies on working-class fertility, and then my PhD shifted my attention to the work carried out by women in urban and rural locations in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and then in London.
I completed my PhD in 2012, and was delighted to be awarded the Economic History Society Power Fellowship for 2013-2014, based at the IHR in London, which is enabled me to extend my research further. I am currently the Eastern ARC Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Essex, and my work now covers women who were living in rural and urban locations across the whole of England and Wales, delving deeper into the different occupations carried out by these normal, working-class married women, and challenging the current understanding of the reliability of the census to record women’s work. I also teach at the University of Essex, sharing my love of history with my students, and am part of the admissions team for the department.
I’m hoping that here, in my blog, I can share some of the research that I have carried out over the years into different women’s occupations, and to give a voice to these women and a chance to tell their stories. I hope in the coming months to create a resource detailing the types of work women were carrying out, showing how their wages were affected by changes beyond their control, and giving information from multiple sources including the newspapers and contemporary surveys.