March 9, 2012

Reviews & Press

“The Richmond Theater Fire is totally engrossing, a real page turner. Baker ably depicts the vibrancy of social and cultural life in early Richmond, and captures the horror, chaos, and shock of this terrible conflagration. She does a marvelous job of unearthing and marshaling primary sources to recreate for us the most detailed and heartbreaking account of this disaster that I have ever read.” Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, author of Celebrate Richmond Theater

Best study yet of antebellum Richmondhighly recommended.”CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, an American Library Association magazine.

“Much more than just the dramatic exposition of a horrific disaster in which notable families suffered losses, Baker’s gracefully written book tells the story of nineteenth-century Richmond’s cultural transformation. The theater had its friends and foes—it was thought by some a welcome place for amusement, and judged by others a ‘school of vice.’ The author moves deftly though such subjects and public safety, personal reputations, fixation on death, and the tenacity of religious values. A solid contribution to early American history.” Nancy Isenberg, author of Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

“The theater fire has never been the subject of a book-length study. Baker’s well-informed and impressively researched book fills that gap, telling an engaging story in the process…Baker has written a smart and responsible popular history. Readers who want a good story and detailed descriptions will find both here. Her discussions of contemporary medical techniques and of the physical and psychological damage sustained by burn victims, then and now, are especially vivid and insightful, as are her accounts of the financial hardships suffered by families who lost their main breadwinners in the conflagration. Because Baker is also demonstrably aware of the broader historical context in which these stories unfolded, however, her narrative yields insights into issues ranging from the evolution of print culture to the history of urban infrastructures and building codes (or lack thereof). Exhaustively researched and thoughtfully contextualized, this book is a welcome contribution.” Cynthia Kierner, author of Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times, in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 120, no. 3

“Meredith Henne Baker…tells the story in vivid detail. Her book explores not only the fire itself but also its aftermath, and it serves as an important chronicle of a tragedy that marked — and changed — Richmond.” Virginia Book Notes, The Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Richmond Theater Fire is not only a tragic story vividly told, but also a solid historical thesis…” Karen Lyon, “The Literary Hill” for the Hill Rag


Who’s Talking about The Richmond Theater Fire and Meredith Henne Baker?



review in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. “Exhaustively researched and thoughtfully contextualized, this book is a welcome contribution.”


Hear the Virginia Historical Society Banner Lecture on the 1811 Theater Fire or watch the video here.

VHS Banner Lecture

LSU image

Louisiana State University’s press release on The Richmond Theater Fire receiving the 2012 Phi Alpha Theta Award.




A review in CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, an American Library Association publication: “Best study yet of antebellum Richmond…highly recommended.” 




An interview with


Another great review in the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s “Virginia Book Notes”  and
An interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch 


Richmond Magazine Online interviews Meredith
and author Harry Kollatz, Jr. recommends “The Richmond Theater Fire” in an article on Monumental Church’s restoration and 200th Anniversary


Listen to a live interview with the WFLO “Call Flo” morning radio program




The Richmond Theater Fire Press Release from Louisiana State University Press (PDF file)




A video interview with Jim Junot at The Junot Files 



A review from Washington D.C.’s The Hill Rag “Literary Hill” Column , listed as one of the “Best of the Literary Hill” reads for 2012 (Dec, 2012 issue)





Review in Washington D.C.’s WETA (Public Radio) InReads Blog


Reviewed in The Confederate Book Review and later interviewed

Interviewed in Virginia’s Belle Magazine and listed as one of their “Women You Should Know”








Reviewed in author Charles Knight’s Valley Thunder Blog




Interviewed in the Hillsdale College Alumni Magazine 



pinterestAnd the book’s even been “pinned” on the VHS Pinterest page!