Highly regarded as one of the pioneers of oral history, Mary Chamberlain has authored six non-fiction works, and edited, or co-edited, a further five. FENWOMEN. A PORTRAIT OF WOMEN IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE, the first book to be published by the Virago Press in 1975, was described as ‘a strong and moving book’ (Ann Cornelisen, Sunday Times), ‘A simple record of life and work… remarkably moving’ (John Mapplebeck, Listener), ‘an authentic testament, and solid social history’ Richard Cook, The Times Educational Supplement.) Now considered a classic – a ‘masterpiece’ as Paul Thompson described it in Reviews in History – it has been republished by Routledge in 1983 and, more recently, by Full-Circle Editions in 2011. It was the basis for the playwright Caryl Churchill’s award-winning play Fen.
OLD WIVES’ TALES:THE HISTORY OF REMEDIES, CHARMS & SPELLS, was published first by Virago in 1981 and republished by Tempus in 2006 and the History Press (paperback) in 2010. NARRATIVES OF EXILE AND RETURN her innovative study of Caribbean migration, first published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press in 1997, was republished by Transaction in 2007.
Other books include GROWING UP IN LAMBETH, which provided valuable material for her novel, THE DRESSMAKER OF DACHAU. FAMILY LOVE IN THE DIASPORA: MIGRATION AND THE ANGLO-CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE, widely considered one of the most original and important books on Caribbean families and EMPIRE AND NATION-BUILDING IN THE CARIBBEAN: BARBADOS 1937-1966 described by Glenford Howe in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History as ‘thought provoking… a must read,’ by Richard Drayton in the Journal of Contemporary History as a ‘the most important single book published on the twentieth-century British West Indies in a decade… a benchmark work,’ and by Franklin Knight as ‘expertly researched, consummately crafted and delightfully written…an unusually outstanding interdisciplinary study,’ in the International History Review.
Her edited and co-edited books include WRITING LIVES: CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN WOMEN WRITERS, in celebration of 15 years of Virago Press, and others on oral history and Caribbean history.