Local Characters in the West End: Eleanor Gordon – Writer/Academic

Photo: madeleine cover.
Department of Economic and Social History, University of Glasgow. Professor Eleanor Gordon

– see further information below including Books.

I have been eagerly awaiting ‘Murder and Morality in Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith’ Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair – due out on 20th August, 2009 – now available on Amazon

This book explores the life of Madeleine Smith, who in 1857 was tried for poisoning her secret lover. As well as charting the course of this illicit relationship and Madeleine’s subsequent trial, the authors draw on a wide range of sources to pursue themes such as the nature of gender relations and the extent of women’s social and commercial activities, and to bring vividly to life the world of the mid-Victorian middle class. In particular, Madeleine’s letters, full of gossip and passion as well as the details of her daily life, offer unique insights not only into her relationship with her lover, L’Angelier, but also into the life of her social circle, filled with partying, flirting and shopping. Her trial and the press response to it reveal much about contemporary views on sexual morality, parenting and the essence of ‘Britishness’.
The authors analyse the ways in which the case has been written about by subsequent authors and demonstrate how the concerns of the present shape the telling of the past. The book contains new discoveries about Madeleine’s long and colourful life after the trial which confirm the view that it is only in fiction that the bad end unhappily. The book will be of interest to academic social historians, but the fascination of its subject matter and the way in which much rich material is used to evoke a vivid sense of time and place, will also promote a wider interest among a more general readership.

Eleanor’s last book, written with, Gwyneth Nair, provides a wealth of information about family life, marriage, work and leisure. The core of the study focuses on the Claremont Estate, which includes the grand terraces of Park Circus as well as the more modest surrounding tenements of Woodlands. The area is part of ‘Glasgow’s Murder Mile’ the site of a number of infamous murder cases including Madeleine Smith (accused of murdering her lover in 1850’s):

I met Eleanor over 30 years ago when I went to study ‘A’ level Sociology as a mature student at Clydebank College. She was a brilliant teacher, whom I held in high regard, and when she moved on to study for her Ph.D. at Glasgow University I went up at the same time as an undergraduate.

Eleanor moved on to become lecturer then senior lecturer in Social History at the University and a few years back was made Professor. It’s been quite good fun teasing her about that.

Eleanor is one of a little group of friends, who have known each other for many, many years – I think she taught us all at one time or another. We have propped each other up in times of difficulty and laughed our heads off at utter, shared nonsense. We’ve kind of got the latter honed into a fine art.

Eleanor is one of my best pals and I am very proud of her achievements; including her astonishingly good acting as one of The Kilmardinny Players. When we go out and about in the West End we have a great time – as well as being smart she is a lot of fun. She also has what all Westender’s crave; a lovely garden and conservatory.


Murder and Morality in Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith (Manchester University Press, due out 20th August, 2009) with Gwyneth Nair

Medicine, Law and Public Policy in Scotland 1840-1980 (Dundee University Press, forthcoming) with Mark Freeman and Krista Maglen

Gender in Scottish History (Edinburgh University Press, 2006) co-edited with Lynn Abrams, Debbie Simonton and Eileen Yeo

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Business and the World of Labour, (Oxford University Press, 2004) 0-19-1861411-X, Associate Editor

Public Lives: Women, Family and Society in Victorian Britain, pp302 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2003) with Gwyneth Nair 0300-10220-8

Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800-1945, pp228 (Edinburgh University Press, 1992) 0-7486-0372-7 co-edited with E Breitenbach

Women and the Labour Movement in Scotland 1850-1914, pp312 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991) 0-19-820143-5

The World is Ill Divided: Women and Work in Scotland 1830-1940, pp 186 (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1990) co-edited with E Breitenbach. 0 7486-0116-3

Uncharted Lives: Extracts from Scottish Women’s Experiences 1850-1982, pp225 (Glasgow, Pressgang,1983) collectively edited. 0- 946025- 30- 4

This section: People: Local Glasgow West End Characters

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Avatar of JimByrne West End based web Developer, writer, songwriter and musician. And the person who takes lots of photos for the Glasgow West End website.

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