After graduating from the University of Sussex in Psychology and Linacre College, Oxford, she joined the BBC in 1978 as a trainee. She went on to produce films for the Horizon strand and won awards for her investigations. Her Horizon film Assault on the Male, launched a world wide scientific research campaign into environmental oestrogens, hormone–mimicking chemicals that are harming human health, and led to her first book, The Feminisation of Nature.
She moved into history programming in 2003 as the series producer of the BAFTA-nominated drama documentary series, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. The series was notable for combining live action with CGI, created by Gareth Edwards, and was described as ‘a ground breaking achievement’ by the Times. In 2005 she series produced the docudrama series, Space Race, the BBC’s first co-production between Russia and the United States with unique access to the Russian side of the story. As an executive producer Deborah continued her investigation of Cold War espionage in her BBC series Nuclear Secrets, which explored the race for supremacy through pivotal personal stories of the nuclear spies.
Deborah Cadbury wrote her first historical nonfiction in 2000 with The Dinosaur Hunters, which examined the bitter rivalry between the early fossil hunters who pieced together the evidence of a prehistoric world. This was turned into a TV drama by Granada Productions and won the Dingle Prize from the British Society for the History of Science. Her 2003 book The Lost King of France, telling the story of the French revolution through the eyes of a child, Marie Antoinette’s son, received a nomination for the Samuel Johnson Prize and was described by historian, Alison Weir, as ‘Absolutely stupendous. This is history as it should be’.
At the height of the global financial crisis Deborah Cadbury went back into her own family history for her book, Chocolate Wars (2010), which unfolded the story of Cadbury from chocolate shop to the Kraft takeover. She coined the term ‘Quaker capitalism’ and she has given talks on the significance of this business heritage to Insead Business School, Birmingham and others. She is collaborating with Fable Films on a dramatization of the early chocolate pioneers.
More recently, she has written Princes at War (2015) exploring Britain’s ‘finest hour’ through the escalating conflict between George V’s four sons during the Second World War. Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking (2017) examines Queen Victoria’s role as a matchmaking grandmother and the remarkable vision of European unity that lay behind her schemes well before there was any notion of a ‘European Union’.
Deborah Cadbury was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Birmingham in 2013 and has many international TV awards for her documentaries. Nominations for her drama documentaries include: Broadcast, Royal Television Society and BAFTA.
Deborah has lectured widely on her books and films and has appeared in numerous TV and radio programmes. She has two sons and lives in London
- Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (2003), series producer
- End Day (2005), executive producer
- Space Race (2005), series producer
- Nuclear Secrets (2007), executive producer
- In Search of Medieval Britain (2008), executive producer
- Inside the Medieval Mind (2008), executive producer
- Horizon titles include: Fast Life in the Food Chain, Cheating Time, Assault on the Male, Twice Born, Too Close to the Sun, The Gulf War Syndrome, Fat Cats & Thin Mice, The Human Laboratory and Dawn of the Clone Age.
- Imagined Worlds, 1983, BBC Publications ISBN 978-0563203865
- The Feminisation of Nature, 1997, Penguin (UK) ISBN 978-0241137468, also published as Altering Eden: The Feminisation of Nature, St Martin's Press (US) ISBN 0-312-24396-0
- The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World, 2001, HarperCollins (UK) ISBN 978-1857029635, also published as Terrible Lizard: The First Dinosaur Hunters and the Birth of a New Science, Holt/Macrae (US) ISBN 978-0805070873
- The Lost King of France, 2003, Fourth Estate (UK) ISBN 978-0007333790, St Martin's Press (US) ISBN 978-0312320294
- Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, 2003, Fourth Estate (UK) ISBN 978-0007163052, also published as Dreams of Iron and Steel, HarperCollins (US) ISBN 978-0007163069
- Space Race, 2005, Fourth Estate (UK), ISBN 978-0007209941, HarperCollins (US) ISBN 978-0007209958
- Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, 2010, HarperCollins (UK) ISBN 978-0007325573, PublicAffairs (US) ISBN 978-1586488208, Douglas & McIntyre ISBN 978-1553655749 (Canada)
- Princes at War: The British Royal Family's Private Battle in the Second World War, 2015, Bloomsbury (UK) ISBN 978-1408845240, Public Affairs ISBN 978-1610394031 (US)
- Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe, 2017, Bloomsbury (UK) ISBN 978-1408852828 and Public Affairs (US) ISBN 978-1610398466
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