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Vic Gatrell [or V.A.C. Gatrell] is a Life Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Born in South Africa in 1941, he graduated from Rhodes University before winning a scholarship to Cambridge. At St John's College he took first-class honours in history and completed his Ph.D., and was then awarded a Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College. In the Cambridge History Faculty he was Lecturer and then Reader in British history, and co-editor of The Historical Journal, 1976-1986. He became Professor of British History at the University of Essex 2003–9. He retained his Fellowship in Caius, and returned to Cambridge in 2009, where he now lives.
His The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1780-1868 (Oxford, 1994) won the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize. It is a seminal study of changing attitudes to capital punishment across a period of profound cultural change.
His City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-century London (Atlantic, 2006) is a Wolfson Prize-winning study of satirical caricature and manners from 1780 to 1830.
In 2013, Penguin Books published Gatrell's The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age, a history of 'proto-bohemian' Covent Garden and the 'lower' art world in eighteenth-century London. It makes a plea for the significance of the arts that celebrated 'real life' rather than the nymphs, shepherds, and 'histories' favoured by the Royal Academy, by which the art of that era is usually characterised.