Cooking the Books: the Culinary Worlds of Eliza Acton and Mrs Beeton

Eliza Acton and Mrs Beeton

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The life, work and legacy of two extraordinary Victorian women.

This event takes place in the British Library Theatre and will be simultaneously live streamed on the British Library platform. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person, or to watch on our platform (online) either live or within 48 hours on catch up.  In-person ticket bookers will also be sent a bonus link to the online event. Viewing links will be sent out shortly before the event.

The online version of this event will be live captioned.

Victorian cookery writers Eliza Acton (1799–1859) and Isabella ‘Mrs’ Beeton (1836–1865) may have lived over 150 years ago but their impact lives on, shaping home cooking and influencing modern cooking-writing. 

Join Mrs Beeton’s biographer Kathryn Hughes and Annabel Abbs, the author of a fictional account of Acton’s life – The Language of Food – as they discuss the life, work and legacy of these two remarkable women. Chaired by Food Season founder and curator, Polly Russell. 

Annabel Abbs is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction that has been translated into 30 languages. Her fifth book, The Language of Food, tells the fictionalised story of the pioneering cookery writer Eliza Acton and has been optioned by CBS Studios. Annabel has a degree in English Literature from UEA, an MA from Kingston University, and is a Fellow of the Brown Foundation. She lives in London where she spends her time cooking, walking, reading, writing and collecting antiquarian recipe books. 

Kathryn Hughes is an historian and literary critic specialising in the Victorian period. Her biography, The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton: The First Domestic Goddess was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize and filmed by the BBC as ‘The Secret Life of Mrs Beeton’, starring Jim Carter and Anna Chancellor. Kathryn is Professor Emerita in Life Writing at the University of East Anglia, and a contributor to the Guardian, the New York Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. She is currently writing a book on the late Victorians’ obsession with cats. 

Polly Russell is the Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and also works as freelance food historian and writer. Polly has a regular column in the FT Weekend magazine (‘The History Cook’) and is co-presenter on the BBC2’s ongoing living history series, Back in Time for Dinner. Polly founded and curates the annual ‘Food Season’ at the British Library.

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Food Season supported by:

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Name: Cooking the Books: the Culinary Worlds of Eliza Acton and Mrs Beeton
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546

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