Are Female Historians Destroying the Tudors?
Dr. David Starkey has been making, in my opinion, some rather strange comments about the biases of female historians. He criticizes some for zeroing in on the ‘soap opera’ of key figures’ love lives rather than their achievements or failures. The TV show “The Tudors” seems to have inspired these comments.
Although Starkey is correct to criticize the TV show for its inaccuracies and its prurient emphasis (what Starkey describes as a “bonkorama”), he blames female historians for this interpretation of the court of Henry VIII. ‘But it’s what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience. Unhappy marriages are big box-office.’
It is unfair to blame women historians for a television production which satisfies its viewers in much the same way that Ugly Betty or Desperate Housewives satisfy their audiences. The problem is, however, according to Starkey, that Henry has been de-emphasized in the re-telling of this tale.
‘Wives appear simply to explain or complicate the story of Henry. This is his development, his psychology and, above all, why he matters.’ That is a valid criticism, perhaps, of the show, but Starkey continued on to criticize recent interest in broadening the interest of history to include the stories of women, non-Europeans and minority groups. Starkey says: ‘If you are to do a proper history of Europe before the last five minutes, it is a history of white males because they were the power players, and to pretend anything else is to falsify.’
Perhaps Starkey should lie down and take a few aspirins before resuming the hawking of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the King’s succession. I am not the only person offended by Starkey’s comments. Lucy Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which manages the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace responded, ‘This is misogyny. It’s rude, damaging, unfair and pernicious to say that women’s history isn’t important and interesting.’
What do you think? For more on Dr. Starkey’s views, see this article from the Daily Mail.Filed under Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
Tagged David Starkey, Henry VIII of England, Television.