Why Drag Race will one day be taught in schools

Because in the clusterfuck we find ourselves in today, there is one shining hope for the history lessons of tomorrow.

Dear future history teachers, I can only apologise. After all, we’re living in the kind of hellscape that will be impossible to break down into hour long chunks that teenagers can understand (I’m living in this mess and I can barely keep up!)

The UK is dancing an unending hokey kokey with Europe, America’s President is possibly Voldemort with a spray tan, the poorest of us have never been worse off and even the Royal Family are unable to keep their shit together. Oh, and that’s not even starting on the countless elections, riots and this tiny little thing called global warming. Future history teachers, I can only wish you good luck and god speed; those lesson plans will need a miracle.

BUT there is one great thing that has come out of this whole mess. One thing that will  make the history classes of fifty years from now not only bearable, but the best damn lesson ever. 

I am of course, talking about Ru Pauls Drag Race. 

ru i cant wait gif
Same Ru, same

Ok, this might seem a little unorthodox, but don’t forget this:

There is no way that in 50 years LGBT+ history won’t be taught with the same respect that civil rights are taught in todays schools. 

LGBT+ history will become part of the curriculum. That’s just fact. It’s already starting to happen. In America several states require it to be taught and countless schools across the world eagerly embrace LGBT History Month. This is just the beginning. Pretty soon LGBT history won’t just be something you squeeze into lessons where possible, it will be a key part of what kids learn.

That’s because queer culture isn’t just a societal side piece. It’s part of who we are as a whole. It’s taken us centuries, but we’re starting to wake up to that fact. Just as with civil rights, LGBT rights aren’t ‘a nice to have’ or something only those in that community need to worry about, they effect everyone.

Which brings me back to Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It’s irrefutable that Drag Race has helped bring queer culture to the mainstream (no matter what you think on it’s representation of drag). It’s introduced millions of people to not only drag, but also major LGBT issues, with episodes frequently including debate and discussion of rights. Viewers have turned into allies, advocates and campaigners. Don’t get me wrong, Drag Race is not perfect by any means, but it’s contribution is HUGE.

lick me
This is what societal importance looks like

Oh and to the argument that Drag Race isn’t high art enough to be remembered, take a seat. MASS ENTERTAINMENT IS HISTORY. Just ask William Shakespeare. 

Audiences to Shakespeare’s plays were anyone and everyone. The insanely rich bought pricey seats and dressed to see and be seen. Then there with those that paid a penny and flitted between watching the show to hawking merch to make some extra cash.

Those stories were for everyone. They commented on current issues and played into trends. William Shakespeare might as well have retitled Macbeth, ‘Hey King James I heard you were well into witches now, so thought you might like this.’. It’s the perfect meld between fantastical flight and commentary on history building moments. Kind of reminds you of something, huh?

Oh and that’s not even getting into the language! Just like those sonnets of yore, slang rooted from within queer culture is part of everyday language. Who knows, maybe one day teens will be forced to both read aloud from Macbeth and Drag Race.

latrice gif
But said in monotone by an introverted 15 year old from Leeds

Then there’s the action off screen. The queens that are making history right now. 

Trans activists, Sonique and Monica Beverly Hillz fighting for rights for everyone in their community. Outspoken Queens like Bob The Drag Queen, working to stop the racism that many of the shows black contestants face. It’s yet more evidence that as the fight continues, Drag Race’s does too.

So yes. I do see Drag Race being taught in schools. Right alongside Marsha P Johnson, Section 28 and the Aids crisis

Drag Race will be a leaping off point, a place to start before delving into centuries of struggle and prejudice.

The introduction to the brave heroes who fought back and were all too often forgotten. A rhinestoned beacon of hope, so needed when your traversing for the seemingly endless mires of bleakness, that yes, it does get better.

More like this:

News flash: Exhibitions don’t have to be boring

When I was little, one of my favourite videos to watch was Passport to Paris, a Mary-Kate & Ashley film that, being a twin and a child of 00s, I was obsessed with.

What’s always stuck with me, however, is a scene in Passport to Paris, where the twins walk through the Louvre, and slowly, their fascination turns to utter boredom. The painting fly past them, barely noted, as they walk, shoulders slumped, through gallery after gallery.  (Oh, and while we’re here, FYI other 00s kids, I can tell you  that in real life twins don’t make their prospective boyfriends tell them apart by dressing the same, it is not a done thing).

Do not trust them on twins or museums

That scene in the Louvre represented, to me, how people often saw museums. Lengthy, complicated interpretations, medieval paintings, some marble and if you’re lucky, some decent taxidermy.

So, when I started to work in museum, my greatest fear was that people would walk through my exhibitions the same way that the Olsen sisters walked through the Louvre – without looking at a single thing, uttered uninterested.

But, having been on the inside, I can say with authority that museum people are no longer the tweed jacket and elbow patch wearing people that the Olsen twins (and many of others!) thought they were. Museum folk aren’t out there just to recite some lengthy historical facts and bore visitors to tears.

The museum world has fought against this tired image and today, exhibitions and events in museums, galleries, historic houses and archives are becoming more and more engaging, accessible, fun and inviting. 

In 2017 I started putting together an exhibition on the suffrage centenary, Represent! Voices 100 Years On, for Manchester’s Peoples Museum. At first, the main goal was to ensure that the people visiting the exhibition didn’t trudge through a’la Mary-Kate and Ashley. That they were able to discover stories of incredible women and leave excited and engaged. 

It turns out that saying you want your exhibition to inspire and engage is a lot easier said than done… 

Putting together Represent! was was the best of times and the worst of times – like with any job, huge amounts of stress was involved, but also so many rewarding moments. So lets look at all the lessons I learned!

Represent! Voices 100 Years On at the People’s History Museum, Manchester

What struck me throughout the process was how different it felt. People’s History Museum worked with so many different community groups and individuals to interpret the stories, contribute their own opinions and ideas, and actually make the story we were telling relevant, and impactful.

See, that’s what was missing from Passport to Paris – impact. (FYI, something the Louvre has a lot of – don’t believe those sneaky twins). Visiting a museum or an exhibition shouldn’t be about expectations. If you’re expected to appreciate, understand, or even celebrate what’s on display, then you’re going to feel out of place. You’re going to feel lectured at, and you’re going to switch off.

But that’s where most museums are changing.

If you see yourself reflected in the objects, in the labels, in the interpretations – something you might have thought, or said, something entirely not curated or edited – you might feel a stronger connection to what you’re seeing, or reading. That realisation that one voice – the voice of a curator – is not the most important voice in the room is the biggest change that museums have made to exhibitions, for the better.

 Now, of course, working with communities has its challenges. Traditionally, you source your objects, working with the Collections team and Conservation to ensure everything in the collection that we want to use is in a good condition and is able to go on display. Loaning objects might also be part of the process, from other institutions, or sometimes just individuals. A lot of work goes into preparing these loans, so it’s always a relief when they finally make it into the building.

Working with communities, you don’t always get that level of planning. Even if you do plan, things might go awry.  

One of my favourite moments from Represent! was when I spoke to a well-known group of activists, and met them to discuss potentially lending some objects to the exhibition. They turned up to our meeting with a treasure trove of objects – only I was stranded without an entry form or the paperwork.

Sometimes, working with activists and grassroots groups means that proper museum practice can’t always be as black and white as it traditionally is. Flexibility, and to an extent, spontaneity are definitely needed.

That’s the best part of mixing the past and the present, though! Getting a glimpse into the heart of campaigns today, then seeing it reflected back in objects from 100 years ago is what made the exhibition what it was.

That’s the beauty of it! How can you look away? Real people make you feel included, and part of something.

There’s more, though. The raw truth that community groups and individuals are able to deliver – untamed by the voice of the museum – offers a sort of uncomfortable reality whilst also being authentically inspiring.

Honest reflections like these fill the walls of Represent!, with phrases including “The vote was for white women” and “Feminism is about equality and if the values were actually played out, maybe I would believe in it.”  Alongside these quotes, narratives and stories of the continued fight for equality show that it still very much needed.

Platform guests at the Represent! Preview, recreating the Caxton Hall photograph

Right until the end of the process, we kept this community-led focus on the exhibition.

We launched the exhibition by recreating the below photograph, taken at Caxton Hall in 1910, just before this deputation of suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst marched on Parliament and were brutally attacked for hours on end (on the orders of none other than Winston Churchill).

We filled the platform with activists and campaigners of today, and it was a moment where the past and present combined, to commemorate those who had gone before, and to champion those who were carrying on their struggle.

WSPU members, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Sophia Duleep-Singh, on the platform at Caxton Hall

Different, from start to finish. Different, diverse voices. Unique, unsung narratives. Costumes,newspapers, banners, placards, arrest warrants, pink pussy hats, maiden speeches, paintings and pamphlets.

I don’t think Mary-Kate and Ashley would have been bored in this one.

Helen Antrobus is 1/3 of F Yeah History. She’s also a curator (formerly for Manchester’s Peoples History Museum) with a passion for telling the stories of radical women and working class history. 

How does mass remembrance affect history?

In 2014 the Tower of London sparked a revolution of remembrance when it unveiled an enormous work of public art to commemorate 100 years since the start of the First World War.

888,246 handmade ceramic poppies standing in the fortress moat, so many they tumbled out of ramparts and windows. Each one representing a member of the British and Colonies military who’d died in the First World War. It was called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (also known as Poppies at the Tower) and it changed everything.

I was working for Historic Royal Palaces (the organisation that looks after Tower of London) when the Poppies were being planned and believe me; it was a gamble!

The Tower of London is steeped in military history, with its famous Yeoman Warders (beefeaters) all ex military. The Tower was always going to remember those that had fallen, but what would be the public’s reaction? Would people come? Would poppies be ridiculed?

Not to mention that poppies was going to be a very costly endeavour and if it failed, then what did that mean for future projects?

It didn’t fail.

Millions of people came to see the poppies. So many that London Underground had to put in place tannoy announcements advising people to plan alternate routes, as the tube stations by Tower of London were so packed.

Almost 18,000 volunteers worked to plant all of the poppies. At nightfall, a roll-call of the fallen was read out to a silent crowd as The Last Post was played. The Royal Family came, with the Queen planting one of the poppies. The prime minister urged the Tower to keep the poppies for longer. And when the final day of the exhibition came, each poppy was sold to the public, raising millions for military charities.

But the most remarkable thing about the Poppies was the effect it had on everyone who saw it. At first you’d look at one poppy; a particular patch. But it soon became impossible to see that one poppy, as it was eclipsed by the vastness of red. Lost in a sea of the dead.

It was both the individual loss and the mass mourning. It was visceral. You could feel it. And you couldn’t leave and still view the First World War in the same way.

crowds at poppies at the tower
Crowds visiting The Tower of London’s Poppies

Blood Swept Land and Seas made the front pages of newspapers. It was the first story on the news. History… the main news story.

What was normally reserved for 1 day a year, remembrance day, was now the UK’s water cooler talk.

Let’s not understate this, because it’s INCREDIBLE!

But why was this? Well it was because it showed history in a new light.

Kings and Queens are great. The stories of lost empires are great. The nitty gritty of tanks and military plans are great. But this wasn’t that. It was people. Everyday people, their story. And that’s something else entirely.

There was an increase in people looking into their family history, discovering their link to this era.

It built a bridge between a time that seemed far away and showed it as relevant, our ties to the past as strong as ever.

Soon Blood Swept Land and Seas went on tour and everywhere it went to saw increased visitors. And I’m not talking a slight bump, I’m talking an increase of over 1000%.

Poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Visitors view Blood Swept Land and Seas during its tour stop at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This new style of mass remembrance didn’t stop with the poppies.

Arts programme, 14-18 Now, devised a series of events, running from 2014-2018, to commentate 100 years since The First World War.

Perhaps the most incredible was 2016s, ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ which marked 100 years since The Somme. Young men, dressed as WW1 soldiers, each one representing a soldier who died in the battle, descended on Britain’s cities. They sang a trench favourite ‘we’re here because we’re here’, before falling into silence and passing out the individual details of the soldiers they portrayed.

Once more the display created national interest. Once more the individual loss was the focal point.

we're here becuase we're here, in Glasgow
‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ in Glasgow
one of the we're becuase we're here cards
One of the ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ cards given out to the public

So what does this new form of mass remembrance mean for history? 

Well, for one thing it shows that people are really interested in history. Fantastic! 

But more importantly, it shows that we can stretch the boundaries when it comes to telling history. 

During the commemoration of 100 years since the First World War, it was not the conventional history telling that resonated. The template exhibitions, documentaries and books were all there, but they weren’t what captured the imagination.

And this tells us 2 things key things:

1 . People are interested in history, but not always the kind of history we’re selling. This is a great opportunity to take chances! For example we can look to how 14-18 Now and The Tower of London have done an amazing job with merging history. And it doesn’t stop there. This is a chance for us to explore the boundaries of how we tell history!

Exhibitions that blend experience with archival objects, and play with the perimeters of written word and visuals. Books that embrace new narrative and language styles. The expansion of documentary formats into podcasts and YouTube. There is a whole world of opportunity out there, just waiting to be pioneered.

2 . People are interested in people. I know this may seem obvious! But I think the popularity of these projects shows us that there is a lot of room to build upon, when it comes to telling what we may have previously thought of as, everyday mundane stories.

When we look at battles we either tell the story as a whole or pick out one incredibly notable person. A leader, a saviour, a hero. But its clear that people also want to hear about the average Joe. The people with normal lives and jobs, thrown into these unimaginable situations.

If it was a choice between watching an hour long documentary on the Battle of the Somme or an hour long documentary on what happened to 5 different people during that battle… I know the one I’d watch.

What do you think? Will this new form of mass history change the game? Or is it a fad that will die out? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook

Thank You, David: One ugly woman’s message to David Starkey

This week historian David Starkey, was quoted as saying: ‘

The only chance I have of being on TV again is if I were very ugly. I think only old, ugly women can get on TV. Like Mary Beard,

What a delight!

But it may come as a surprise to many (who have probably heard a few of my feminist rants or seen me light up your tellybox briefly, championing the women’s suffrage movement) to hear that I owe David Starkey, historian and broadcaster, a great debt.

He has been my teacher for many a year, and in the last couple of days I’ve found out that I keep learning valuable lessons from him.

So where to begin? We might as well start with a thirteen-year-old girl, who loved history, and had grown out of Horrible Histories. I found Starkey’s biography on Elizabeth I on a bookshelf in my granddad’s house one day, and although I didn’t understand half of it, I still ploughed through it.

That book sparked a love affair with Elizabethan history that didn’t end.

I used to beg for us to watch his documentaries on the television, used to ask my dad if he’d explain what certain turns of phrase meant. Because Starkey didn’t speak to me, not really. He wasn’t there for a young northerner with a borderline obsession for a Tudor ruff and the six wives of Henry VIII.

He spoke to people who spoke like him who had been educated like him. And it wasn’t until I was older, halfway through my degree, that I realised Starkey had taught me my first big lesson: history is not kind to women.

I spend a lot of time in my job, being angry at how history has treated women. Thanks for that too, David. You started me young there. Whilst you were kind of saying, poor old Anne Boleyn got what she deserved, I was shouting WHAT ABOUT HENRY! into the pages of my books.

It didn’t stop there, evidently. So cheers for that – thanks to you, I’ve successfully made a career out of vindicating forgotten women in history.

And this week, you’ve taught me that it’s not just history books that treats women with disdain – or worse, leaves them out entirely.

We should also be afraid of those who hold the power over history; who can bend it and warp it and change it. Because if you hold authority over the past, it’s quite likely that you hold authority over who gets to talk about it.

And it’s funny, isn’t it, how there’s quite a lot of people who seemed to have listened to David over the years – like I did, once – when he has called books by female historians ‘historic Mills & Boon’, when he launched a scathing attack on what he referred to as ‘feminised history’, stating that female (and female readership, dear reader, let’s not forget that), can reduce great histories – like that of Henry VIII (you know, that guy in history who nobody has heard of, talks about, has a series of biopics…) – to soap operas.

So thanks, David. You’ve spent a good long while reducing female historians to airheads who can’t tell history straight, and I think you might have rubbed off on a few folk.

In the last month alone, Dr Fern Riddell was subjected to abuse after asking to be referred to as Dr rather than Miss, and I myself – a curator and specialist in women’s suffrage – was targeted after appearing on several documentaries about the centenary of the first female voters.

I was told I needed plastic surgery, whilst talking about the suffragettes. Lucy Worsley is attacked constantly for her appearances on TV, despite arguably now being the most famous public historian in the country.

And don’t even get me started on how Goddess of goddesses Mary Beard – the person solely responsibly for my Classics degree – is treated by the public.  

And you’re not stopping yet, are you David? Because we’ve gone from being too pretty to being ugly and old. We’ve gone from feminising and romanticising history, to spoiling it for everybody else by keeping the righteous men off the screens.

There is a consistent problem here, that however women are telling the stories –  they are not telling it right. And its thanks to you, David, that experts like Dr Riddell, and young, early-career women like myself, are being subjected to the abuse.

And you’ve been fanning the flames for so long, it’s about time you got a burn yourself.

So thanks, David. From your elitist, misogynistic drivel, I learnt that women empower other women, and they are on screen not because of how they look, but because they say things right.

Thanks, David, because growing  up with you on the telly has taught me that diversifying public and exposing people to experts who aren’t white middle-class men is crucial

Growing up, I always loved history, but history didn’t seem to be for me. History wasn’t for a young northerner who didn’t apply for Oxbridge. It was for wars, kings, and men talking about men.

And now? History is about the home, the streets, BAME people, women, working classes, middle classes, kids, grown ups. There are silly songs, but there are also moments of passion and vibrancy, coming from different accents, genders. When you make history for men alone, it stops being relevant.

So thanks, David, for putting yet another nail in the coffin of your career. Blame women all you like.

Blame Beard, Worsley, Ramirez.  The only thing that’s keeping you off our screens is your branch of patriarchal, dominating history simply isn’t the history the world wants to see anymore.

I’ve spent this year shouting loudly about women who were bullied and abused in their question for representation, so I’m not afraid to carry on their fight.

The only person hurting your career, David, is you. History is for women – not to be feminised, but to explore new, diverse and forgotten narratives. When women are the best for the job, despite how they look, what they wear, how they speak, then they’ll get the job.  And you, my friend, and the elitist, misogynist tales you have so long been allowed to tell, will be over. 

Now go and sit in the corner with Richard Dawkins and think about what you’ve done.

Helen Antrobus is a curator and expert in suffrage. You can find Helen at The Manchester Peoples Museum and on Twitter.

Why are we so awful to female historians?

Recently there has been yet another spate of female history experts being undermined.

F Yeah History writer and curator extraordinaire, Helen Antrobus appeared on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are.

She was there to talk about suffrage, and she did her job perfectly; explaining the suffrage movement and the 1911 census boycott in an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and understandable way . So of course, after doing her job so well, the comments rolled in:

comments 1

comment 2

*By the way because I’m nice I’ve removed these peoples usernames

Helen immediately shut this down and wrote a quick reminder that she’d been there to chat about an era of history she is an expert in, which seemed to have been forgotten… Helen tweet
But of course, Helen isn’t the only woman who has spent the last few days fighting to be recognised for her history expertise.

The very talented historian, Fern Riddell was also undermined, after a fellow historian ‘skimmed’ her recent book on Suffragette Kitty Marion and felt she’d put emotion over fact, which he believed was invective of the clear ‘gendered methods’ between male and female historians

This of course quickly descended into people tearing apart Ferns’ career, right to expertise and questioning whether she truly had the PHD she ‘claimed’ to have.

Just like Helen, Fern immediately clapped back: Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 19.11.07

Both women we’re immediately joined by many others supporting them, and both proved themselves to be brave as well as  more than capable of rising above the bullshit that’s been thrown at them. And that’s a really great skill to have, because right now:

They’re going to get this the rest of their careers

We are AWFUL to women in history. Both in terms of women in history and women who work in history.

If you’re a women in a public facing history role, then chances are you’ve had your entire worth questioned over:

  •  What you look like
  • If your qualifications actually make you an expert.

And this isn’t just the dark corners of the internet. It’s the rising problem of male only history panels. The disparity in pay that is very much still prevalent. That female history experts on TV are given way more stipulations over what they wear than their male counterparts.

Highly intelligent women being stripped of their passion, knowledge and hard work; instead simply boiled down to their looks and perceived educational legitimacy.

I think we can all agree that this is bullshit of the highest order. 

To change this for good we all need to work together. Take the amazing new initiative in America, Women Also Know History. A project started by female history experts to promote women working in history, and make it easy for people to find a female expert; ending the all male guest panels and talks because of the lame excuse that nobody could find a relevant female expert. HERE THEY ARE FOR YOU!

Projects like this are incredible, and they are changing the history landscape for good! But these projects are also really rare. And that’s  because it takes everyone putting aside differences to work together as one.

A united front. Differences aside, grudges on the back burner, judgement not welcome. It’s a big ask. But its the only way to make meaningful change.

So, here are 3 small ways we can start uniting as a community

1.Stop Tearing Each Other Apart

Sounds simple right? But women tearing down other women is still a huge problem. Now don’t get me wrong, in general history is a wonderful supportive place to be, it’s a world full of hybrid Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, it’s truly a beautiful thing.  

BUT the stakes in history can be high, because its often not just years of work at stake, but livelihoods too.

So it’s understandable then, that when people feel they’ve been overlooked, belittled or smeared, that they lash out.

But no matter how carthatic it may be, it’s doing SO MUCH HARM.

Whether it’s bitching to a friend that someone only got a TV gig because they can ‘bat their eyes for the camera’, rolling your eyes and undermining someone researching the same era as you, or even going so far as to tell people to straight up never work with someone – it’s hurting not just that person but you too.

In a field where women already have to work twice as hard for less chance at a job, we need more of us, not less. 

Putting each other down doesn’t do anything other than create less opportunity, and make it ok for other people to bash women in history.

2. So let’s talk!

If you don’t agree with someone’s research conclusions or have an issue with something they’ve said or done, then talk to them.

And I don’t mean by @ing them in a public message.

Slide on into those DMs, send an email and create a meaningful conversation. Because if you’ve written a 15,000 word dissertation, a 30,000 word thesis or a 60,000 word book, then I believe in your ability to write a 50 word email.

And don’t just stop at that little email!

Get on social media and discover new people, new work, new ways of telling history. Things you like and things you don’t. Expand your personal bubble and say hi to people, start conversations with history experts and lovers both big and small.

You’ll be not only creating your own positive community but also inadvertently building bonds and bridges outside your personal circle.


3. Start working to build a better tomorrow. 

Yes. I know. It’s cheesy. But it’s true. 

It doesn’t have to be big, it can be small and take next to no effort! Start by doing more to  celebrate the achievements of others in your field. Recommend their latest book, retweet their project, just tell people about the cool stuff they’re up to. Spreading each others work makes everyone more visible.

But most of all, don’t forget to leave the door open for the people behind you. 

Campsite rules people. Leave things in a better state than you found them. That means working to make it easier for others to work in history.

So, say no when everyone on a history panel is a white middle aged man. Stand with your colleagues when they need support. Check in and make sure people are ok when they’re getting battered with abuse.

And make more opportunities for people just starting out. Just because you got in by one route doesn’t mean everyone else can or should. PHD’s are great, but not everyone has one or the ability and privilege to be able to do one. Unpaid internships and apprenticeships were once the only road, but relying on them has meant we’re losing so many amazing voices.

Remember: The more we stand together, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more unstoppable we become. And so we can change what history holds for the women that come after us. 

Is snobbery bringing down history?

Recently there’s been an amazing spate of really popularised history media. From the (hysterical!) Cunk on Britain, to Drunk History, and a full on rampage of Philippa Greggory spin offs.

There’s just one thing; none of the above count as history. Well so we’re told…

But I have a question. What makes those, so different to this: 

Horrible Histories.gif
The Amazing, Horrible Histories

Guys, I think the only difference might be that Horrible Histories is made for a children and the others are made for an adult audience. When you think about it, that’s kind of messed up…

Now, I love Horrible Histories, it was my gateway drug into history. As a child I spent hours in my local library in a fort made from every Horrible History on the shelf. And now another generation is still discovering how amazing history is through the funny, irreverent and yet oh so informative, Horrible History books, TV programme and plays. Isn’t that just the best?

So why the hell aren’t we allowing adults the same thing?

See, most adults don’t touch history after they leave school. And that’s not because they hate history, it’s because it stopped being fun and became boring.

boring gif
Said 80% of people over the age of 18

For a really long time, history’s had a bit of a rep for being stuffy and elitist. Reserved only for those who wear tweed, have an AP accent and know what a Motte and Bailey is (side note- great name for a detective duo btw) 

So for a lot of people, it can seem like if you’re not down for some hardcore documentary action on medieval literature, followed up by a 1000 page (not counting the footnotes) door-stopper on obscure Tudor royals, then history isn’t really here for you.

Now, if you work in or love history, you know thats not true. BUT, lets face facts, its a public image we’re going to have to fight to change.

So why then, when somebody comes along and tries to tackle this and make history super accessible and fun, we don’t jump for joy, but immediately pick it apart?

this is why we cant have nice things gif.gif
Seriously, why I ask you! WHY!

Now, full disclosure: I used to be a nitpicker 

A while ago I worked in a Tudor Palace (natch) and pretty much every day I’d hear visitors excitedly talking about how being there was just like being in a real life episode of the Tudors or stepping into a Philippa Gregory book.

And whenever this happened I’d do the worlds biggest eye roll.

The Tudors? The Other Boleyn Girl? Pfffft, I mean come on, really; it’s dumbed down and totally inaccurate, not exactly ‘proper history’.

But then I realised: without The Other Boleyn Girl, or The Tudors, those people wouldn’t be there at all.

Just like Horrible Histories had been my gateway to history, this was theirs.

These weren’t frivolous bits of fluffs, they were helping people discover a love for history and a want to delve further into it; that’s AMAZING! 

by jove, shes got it .gif
Seriously though, this show has put so many people onto history!!

Oh, and you know what, when I actually checked out The Tudors and Philips Gregory for myself (because obvs I’d been judging without having tried them) I realised they were incredible pieces of historic entertainment.

See, just like we need magnificently researched academic papers, books and documentaries, we also need entertainment. Not just to help spark peoples historic imaginations, but also because what’s life without a little fun!

Oh, and for those who are screaming: But what about the historical accuracy, won’t someone think of the historical accuracy!?! 

Have a little faith in peoples ability to understand the text in front of them.

When watching something like, Drunk History, people know to take things with a grain of salt, because it’s not a documentary.

So have no fear, nobody thinks Harriet Tubman actually said this:

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But it would have been great if she did

So, next time you see a romping period drama, historical novel, hilarious history sketch show or *ahem* a slightly sweary history blog, don’t just overlook it at first glance.

And, if it’s not your cup of tea, thats totally fine, do you and enjoy the style of history that you enjoy. Just remember, history can be a lot of things to a lot of people, we just need to let people enjoy it.

What do you think? Hit us up in the comments, Twitter or Facebook

How unpaid work is killing off museums

Recently the Victoria and Albert Museum put up a job advert for an unpaid voluntary curatorial role. To land this job you needed, minimum, a masters degree and to be able to work for free.

Obviously as soon as this job advert went live, all of history Twitter protested. 

And the V&A duly apologised, said the whole asking people to work for free thing, had been a huge mistake and took down the job advert.

Fantastic win right? Well, kind of, but it’s also something that happens everyday in the history and heritage sector, it’s just that this one time, it was caught.

But we can’t carry on staying quiet every other time this happens. Because our reliance on these voluntary roles will inevitably end up killing our sector.

Lets look at the average route into a paid role at a museum: 

  • Undergraduate degree (ideally from a top university and in a relevant subject) 
  • Postgraduate degree (again, top uni, relevant subject) 
  • Voluntary roles in museums/archives (for an unspecified time) 
  • Part time/low pay full time role (average 18k) possible volunteering on side
  • Eventually land a full time paid role 

Can you spot the problem here? 

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Spoiler: You don’t need to be a detective to solve this ish

Now, lets not even start to focus on the whole, top university, masters degree minimum thing (though we do know that people from lower income, and also minority backgrounds are very much the minority; in terms of people attending these institutions) 

BUT can we all agree that the industry is currently asking candidates to do a metric shit ton of free work, before they can even be considered for a job.

It is insanity and it is not ok! 

By asking for so much free work, swathes of people are immediately being cut out.

It becomes not so much a matter of – who is the best for the role – and more a case of, who can afford to not get paid and still pay their rent and eat!

Spoiler: it’s probably not going to be the candidate from a minority or lower income background.

Straight up!

But it’s not just that it’s far from an even playing field.

History needs diversity to survive 

There are two key reasons for this: 

  1. People are interested in a more diverse look at history 
  2. Museum visitor figures are falling. Too help tackle this, we need to start engaging with new audiences and communities. 

Museums have to start hiring people with a diverse range of experiences. People that can research other annals of history, give a different perspective on well trodden ground and develop ways of bringing new communities to museums.

If history and heritage starts to do this, not only will it help ensure that we as sector survive; it will make history thrive.

But how can we actually do this? 

Well, we need to ditch our dependance on voluntary roles.

Now I know nobody has a magical money tree, but we can’t have diversity if we don’t actually make museums a viable career for more people.

So lets wave bye bye to this attitude to free work: 

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Bye bye privilege fuckery!

Now thats out the way, lets say hello to:

Paid Internships and Apprenticeships!

Yup, you read that right. Paid. Minimum the living wage (£17k, and £20k for London)

By offering paid work, we’ll be able to access a broader pool of candidates than ever before. People who can bring something new and exciting to the table.

Plus we’ll actually be paying people for the hard work they do, and thats just basic ethics.

Apprenticeships can also help bring in people from the local community that maybe don’t have the degree, but that do have everything else you need to be an incredible curator, historian, conservator, etc.

Now, paying people means that budgets in other areas may need to be cut.

This is definatley something the bigger museums and heritage organisations can start to do, but understandably this isn’t something smaller museums can click their fingers and do overnight.

Long term budget changes will need to be planned out, grants may need to be applied for; it will be a ball ache and it will take a long time.

BUT it will be worth it. 

We can’t keep on blocking out the future, just because we’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean we should continue doing it… guys we work in history, we know this.

So, lets keep on calling for diversity. Lets call out bullshit free work job adverts. If you can, start a conversation about bringing in paid internships into your department. Go to local schools and communities and find ways to bring them into your museum.

History should be everyone’s story, it should be open to everyone and we need to start making that a reality; it’s just good business. 

For more F Yeah History, check us out here on Twitter and Facebook.

Why 2018 is the year to MAKE history

So 2017… bit of a clusterfuck.

We have a US President, who is accused of sexual assault (among maaaaaany other problematic things), a whole litany of sexual assault charges against power players the world over, an all time high of food bank usage in the UK and… honestly way too many other shit storms to count.

2018 couldn’t come any sooner right?

In the world of history, 2018 is an incredibly exciting year because it’s the centenary of women starting to get the vote; cue TONS of amazing exhibitions, books and events all about women’s history.

But here’s the thing that makes 2018 all the more exciting:

2018 isn’t just the year to celebrate history…it’s the year to make history. 

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Fists in the air guys, time to shake shit up


So how can we make history in 2018? Well there’s two main ways:

1. Celebrating forgotten history:

Arguably the lions share of recorded history is about white men. Now don’t get me wrong, white men are (mainly) fine, but they aren’t the only people.

You cannot be what you cannot see; without knowing where we’re from and how we came to be, there’s no way that we can ever truly reach equality.

So then, it’s amazing that in 2018 the story of thousands of women who struggled for equal voting rights is going to be told and celebrated.

Their struggle will be introduced to countless people who had no idea of the work that went into getting the vote. Thousands of little girls and boys will get a new inspiration and that in turn will show them how possible it is to make change in their own lives.

Now imagine that nugget of historic inspiration x100.

That’s the goal.

Because there are millions of stories just waiting to be told. Forgotten history that gives roots to communities across the world

So what can we do to make this happen?

  • Get involved: If you have a local museum, get stuck in and make shit happen!You can write to them directly or do an open letter explaining how essential (and good for business…) diversifying their output is.
  • Team Up: If you’re part of a local group (e.g. LGBT service) then contact your local museum and work with them to get minority history on their agenda and in their collection.
  • Hit the books: Contact your local library and see what local history they have. Trawl through their archives and books and see if you can work together to arrange talks and events around minority and forgotten history.
  • Speak out: We have never had a bigger platform to speak out on than right now. And that platform, is of course the internet. If you know about an amazing chapter in history, then say something! Spread the word on your social platforms; I guarantee people would rather read your post on ass kicking history than your second cousins rant about their ex.

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    Seriously, is there any better example of the difference speaking out makes than this fella?

Step number 2 on making history in 2018…


2018 is going to be full of more hurdles; more Trump, more horrifying assault charges, more cuts to benefits and rights, all around: more shit.

Now we can run away from this OR we can look to history and channel our inner Emmeline Pankhurst’s, Millicent Fawcett’s and Josephine Butler’s.

Personally I’m team carry on the legacy and do some ass kicking.

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Josephine Butler is a great example of a kickass lady to channel this 2018.

Josephine led a huge campaign against the 1864 Contagious Dieseases Act (a law that allowed any woman to be subject to a forced internal examination that was likened to rape)

She banded together with other campaigners, wrote, spoke and marched against the act. It was a long journey, but they won. Not only scrapping the act but also paving the way for future women’s rights campaigns (e.g. suffrage)

As we enter another year of of fighting for female sexual rights, I can’t think of a better lady to inspire; showing that no matter how long or hard our fight; it can be won.

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Living by this in 2018

So what can we do to make this happen?

  • Boots on the ground: Look out for protests and campaigns that need support (or start your own…) follow campaign groups on social media for up to date information on their plans.
  • Take to the internet and spread the word: sign petitions, write to your MP, start conversations and make yourself heard! Not everyone can physically go out and protest so the internet is a great way for all voices to be heard!
  • Get out in your area: Be it by joining a political party you believe in or a volunteering at a local women’s shelter. Your time and energy will make a difference.

Let’s get out there and make history in 2018.

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