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Dancing in the kitchens of history: Eileen Power (1889-1940)

PhD ceremony:Ms R. (Rozemarijn) van de Wal
When:September 15, 2022
Supervisors:prof. dr. C.W. (Mineke) Bosch, prof. dr. C.G. (Catrien) Santing
Where:Academy building RUG
Dancing in the kitchens of history: Eileen Power (1889-1940)

Eileen Power (1889-1940) was one of Britain’s most eminent female historians of the first half of the twentieth century. She was known for her beauty, fashionability and ever-lasting youth, as well as her scholarship in medieval and social-economic history. In 1931, she was appointed to the chair in Economic History at the London School of Economics. She thereby became one of just two women who achieved this degree of academic recognition at a co-educational university before 1940.  At a time when women were firmly marginalized within academia and the very notion of the professional historian was intertwined with notions of masculinity, Eileen Power overcame all obstacles and achieved a remarkable career. The question is, how? How did Eileen Power become a historian? 

In asking this question, this book works from the presupposition that scientific excellence alone is never enough to achieve academic recognition. What is perhaps even more important – especially for women – is the crafting of a credible, trustworthy scholarly identity. The result is an alternative approach to the genre of biography. Rather than describing who Eileen Power ‘really was’, this book examines a wide range of sources (including diaries, letters, publications, academic reviews, photographs and even a fairy tale) to outline how Eileen Power presented herself and how this helped her gain recognition. Dancing in the Kitchens of History charts Eileen Power’s process of becoming a historian, showing that in the making of her career, her performances in university lecture halls were just as important as her famous kitchen dances.