Victoria Francis

Remembering Trinity in 1979

Victoria Francis

Victoria Francis at a Garden Party somewhere in Cambridge in 1980

I grew up with a small castle at the end of the garden (this is not particularly unusual in Wales). It fired my interest in History, which I took as one of my ‘A’ levels (remember them!). In 1979 I won a place to read History at Trinity. Over the next three years, in between swanning around in vintage frocks, discovering gin and doing a lot of singing, I also became aware of a much wider and deeper perspective on History. 

I learned a lot, and not just about the later Roman Empire, medieval Pipe Rolls and the tensions that went into making the American Constitution. I learned the pleasures and pitfalls of using original sources and how to disentangle viewpoint and opinion from more objective evidence. I also refined the highly practical skills of assimilating information fast, identifying the really important bits, writing an essay with a proper beginning, middle and end, and defending my sometimes sketchy conclusions to tutors.

I’ve spent most of my working life in Public Relations and Communications. My job is to find the right stories and narratives to help clients connect and engage with staff, customers and the general public. This can involve anything and everything from tweets or blog posts to videos, articles in the media, a new website or a series of ‘reports’.   

I use the practical skills I learned as a History student—research, writing, critical thinking and the arts of persuasion—every day. Without them I would find it difficult to do my job as effectively. The education I got in discerning viewpoint and opinion has been particularly useful in guiding clients away from the wilder shores of hype when making claims about new products and services. 

I still read fast and I still read History. I recently finished Peter Frankopan’s wonderful The Silk Roads and Judith Herrin’s book on Ravenna is next on the list.  I plan to return to the vintage frocks after that, and do some reading on the history of textiles and fashion. All suggestions gratefully received.