Carolly Erickson Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carolly Erickson primarily writes biographies of famous personalities in European history. “I have found the past compelling since the age of fourteen or so,” she once remarked. Even before she began her undergraduate work in history at the University of Washington, from which she received her double B.A. degree in 1963, she had “a feeling I might some day write history for the general reader.” She earned her doctorate in history from Columbia University in 1969. To support herself, she played piano in cocktail lounges in New York City. For several years, she taught history at Barnard College and Brooklyn College, and then at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge) and Mills College. By the mid-1970’s, however, she had become a freelance writer aiming at a wide, popular audience.

Erickson’s first two books, The Records of Medieval Europe and The Medieval Vision, reflected her interest in the Middle Ages. In the late 1970’s, Erickson began to focus on early modern Europe. She has spent considerable time traveling and conducting research in England. Indeed, English subjects predominate in her writing, beginning with four books published between 1978 and 1984 that deal with famous personalities from Tudor England. Mary Tudor, the subject of Bloody Mary in 1978, was queen of England from 1553 to 1558. Mary’s father, Henry VIII (Great Harry) was the king from 1509 to 1547. Erickson next published a biography of Elizabeth I, who was Henry VIII’s second daughter and ruled England in the Elizabethan era (1558-1603). Finally, Erickson turned to the life of Anne Boleyn (Mistress Anne), who was one of Henry VIII’s six wives and the mother of Elizabeth I.

This cohesive group of biographies on some of the most fascinating personalities of English history in the Tudor period made Erickson a best-selling...

(The entire section is 786 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bell, Susan Groag. Women’s Review of Books 9 (May, 1992): 28. Bell deals with feminist issues in her comments on To the Scaffold.

“Carolly Erickson.” In Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. A biographical and critical overview of Erickson’s literary career.

Guthrie, Margaret E. Review of To the Scaffold, by Carolly Erickson. The New York Times Book Review, June 2, 1991, 20. The reviewer enjoyed this biography of Marie Antoinette but wished that more had been included on the structure of the French court and government.

Hibbert, Christopher. “Hero in a Ragged Kilt.” The New York Times Book Review, January 8, 1989, 16. Hibbert, a British historian, reviews Erickson’s Bonnie Prince Charlie. He praises the work but notes that there is little new in Erickson’s account and that four biographies of the subject had been published earlier in 1989.

King, Florence. Review of Great Catherine, by Carolly Erickson. American Spectator 27 (1984). A balanced book review.

Mason, Deborah. Review of Our Tempestuous Day, by Carolly Erickson. The New York Times Book Review, June 29, 1986, 24-25. The reviewer approves of Erickson’s lively account of Regency England, with its paradoxical mix of beauty and ugliness, commenting that the work “read like a whopping good novel.”

Mellor, Anne K. Review of Our Tempestuous Day, by Carolly Erickson. Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 30, 1986, 5. Mellor, an English professor, praises Erickson for her knowledge of fashion and architecture and for her portrayal of Peterloo and the London crowds. She argues, however, that Erickson lacks a coherent thesis.

Quilligan, Maureen. The New York Times Book Review, April 3, 1983. Comments especially on the feminist perspective in The First Elizabeth.