The History Girls
From The Sunday Express 'S' Magazine, 12 September 2010
A whole new class of women are shaking off the dust of history and making it accessible to everyone. Sue Corbett met the professors - Bettany Hughes, Amanda Vickery and Lucy Worsley - bringing the past to light.
Dr Lucy Worsley, 36, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, is presenting If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home on BBC4 this autumn.
'History was always the subject I enjoyed most at school. To please my dad I tried studying sciences at A level, but managed only a term before scurrying back to history again, and eventually went on to study it at Oxford.
It's a subject that takes you on a narrative journey - you always want to know what happens next. Sciences didn't sweep me along in the same way.
History fascinates me because it combines facts with emotion. I am unashamedly interested in so-called feminine matters, such as housing, domestic routines, clothes and diet. It is through studying these subjects that we get a real chance to identify with long-dead people across the ages, and understand what life was like for them. I can't tell you how cross I was last year when David Starkey ranted against female historians, saying they trivialised history by feminising it.
It's my belief that the sort of history I delve into - social history, if you like - is just as interesting and relevant to people as the study of powerful historical figures.
History used to be written by the people in charge - in other words, men. Now female historians are at last standing up for all those generations of women whose identities and daily lives were largely overlooked for centuries.
For my BBC4 series, I've experienced some of these women's lives for myself. I spent a week following the Tudor personal-hygiene regime of no bath, no shower, no shampoo, no toothpaste and no deodorant. Another day, the camera followed me at the country mansion Shugborough Hall, trying out life as a housemaid. I had to carry back-breaking buckets of bath water from the kitchens up flights and flights of stairs to Lady Anson's bedchamber. I also had the change to play Lady Anson herself, lounging in the bath - a rare but tasteful nude scene for a historian, but also a neat lesson in class distinction'.
© 2013 Lucy Worsley