On the American election, teaching history, and why it matters

This election should not surprise anyone who teaches history. I teach medieval and early modern history at several unis in London.

The study of history in these eras shows us very clearly that Western society is built for white male protestant property owners.

This same society has been built over the bodies of black and brown people, and kept whites without property deliberately marginalised. Within it, the role of women has always been to be scapegoats for the worst of male excess, and vessels for sexual gratification/the getting of heirs.

You should not, therefore, be surprised to see a misogynist racist ruling what has always been a white supremacist society.

As historians, it is our job to show our students the roots of this society – SHOW them the thought processes that have built our world.

Continue reading “On the American election, teaching history, and why it matters”

Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power

As the world collectively crawls, gibbering and raving toward the end of the American presidential election, the medieval roots of society’s expectations of women are once again very firmly on display.

Case in point – the life and times of one of the three medieval women you have heard of – Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Eleanor was, by all accounts, an absolute bad ass.  She lead armies both in Europe and on the Second Crusade. She was a highly skilled ruler who reigned in her husband’s absence from the country. She was also a total babe.

For all these reasons, the modern imagination loves Eleanor.  She won Katherine Hepburn an Oscar, and pops up in most Robin Hood movies. (Yes, even that really bad Russel Crowe one.)  This is why you know her name.

Whilst we appreciate Eleanor, her mind, influence, and general kick-arsery now, everything we love about her now meant she was often reviled in her own time, and for decades after her death.

Eleanor managed to run herself into trouble because she was intent on exercising power in the public sphere.

Continue reading “Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power”