Verdon, Nicola 1970–

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Verdon, Nicola 1970–


Born December 17, 1970. Education: University of Sussex, B.A., 1994; University of Leicester, M.A., 1995, Ph.D., 1999.


Office—University of Sussex, Sussex House, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9RH, England; Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard St., Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 1WB, England. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Writer, historian, and educator. Harlaxton College, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, assistant lecturer, 1999-2001; University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, England, research fellow, 2001-04; University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex, England, senior lecturer in history, 2007—; University of Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, former instructor in history.


Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England: Gender, Work and Wages, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Agricultural History Review and Economic History Review.


Historian, writer, and educator Nicola Verdon is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Sussex in England. Her academic specialty focuses on the economic and social history of the British countryside in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Verdon is particularly interested in the farm family and the family economy of this period, as well as issues related to gender and the workforce, noted a biographer on the University of Sussex Web site. She investigates issues such as the role of females in the farm family, such as farmers' wives, daughters, and widows. She also conducts research on the employment of rural women and children, particularly as agricultural laborers and servants, the biographer reported. Verdon teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses and covers subjects such as the history of the British Isles and Europe, and the social history of women in Britain.

In Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England: Gender, Work and Wages, Verdon aims to "undertake a narrative, empirical and historiographical investigation of women's participation within the formal and informal economies of nineteenth-century rural society," commented Karen Sayer on the History in Focus Web site. "Most research on rural labor has focused on male workers, and women workers have, until recently, been ignored. This book helps to redress the balance" in a work that "gives us a thorough review of the literature plus new research extending our knowledge of the subject," noted Joyce Burnette on an review.

With constant attention to the effects of regional variations, Verdon explores the role of women on farms and in agricultural work in three British regions: Norfolk, New Yorkshire, and Bedfordshire. She combines numerical and statistical information from these areas' archives with material from other historical studies to reach her conclusions. "Much of the book draws on farm accounts and Verdon makes a valuable contribution to rural history by both pulling together the research on these and making her own contribution to the debate," Sayer noted. For example, Verdon discusses women's roles as day laborers and servants, and how they worked outside of their own homes as household domestics and agricultural laborers. She finds that during the two decades between 1870 and 1890, female domestic servants made about sixty percent of the wage received by male domestics. In areas such as Bedfordshire, where there were industries such as lace-making and straw-plaiting, women were largely absent from agricultural work. Further, women made a better wage in these industries than their counterparts in agriculture and domestic service.

Verdon finds that women in British farm families were important contributors to the family's economic well-being, even if they weren't employed outside the borders of their own property. "Even when not formally employed, women made important economic contributions. In the final chapter Verdon describes the many strategies women used to make ends meet," Burnette stated. For example, Burnette continued: "Women earned money by washing, sewing, and taking in lodgers. They gleaned and gathered fuel, nuts, berries, mushrooms, and acorns. They kept gardens and pigs. They maintained reciprocal ties with neighbors. They managed their family budgets carefully to make sure that everyone was fed on their limited income." Often, "the comfort, even the survival, of working class families often rested on women's ability to manage the home, and their participation in the shifting worlds of ‘making do’ and ‘muddling through,’ Sayer observed.

Albion reviewer Stephen Caunce observed that the book contains an "excellent bibliography, and a good descriptive guide to available sources, which will both make it very useful to teachers." Verdon's "account is clear and accessible to a general readership, not just specialists," Caunce continued. Roger Wells, writing in the English Historical Review, commented, "This volume makes a considerable contribution to our knowledge of its subject."



Agricultural History, fall, 2004, Nicola Verdon, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England: Gender, Work and Wages, p. 513.

Albion, spring, 2004, Stephen Caunce, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England, p. 167.

Economic History Review, May, 2003, Pamela Sharpe, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England, p. 376.

English Historical Review, November, 2003, Roger Wells, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England, p. 1341.

ONLINE, (January 25, 2003), Joyce Burnette, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England.

History in Focus, (May 28, 2008), Karen Sayer, review of Rural Women Workers in Nineteenth-Century England.

University of Sussex Web site, (May 28, 2008), biography of Nicola Verdon.