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Lucy Delap

lucy delapName
Dr. Lucy Delap

Murray Edwards College

What is your field of history?
Late Nineteenth and Twentieth century British history, and the transatlantic exchanges between Britain, Canada and the United States. I mainly look at social, media and cultural history, and the history of ideas.

How did you come to specialise in this area?
I became fascinated with the periodicals of Edwardian feminism during my PhD, and have since then extended by studies both forwards and backwards in time. I realised the scope for transnational history when it became clear that the magazines I was working with were equally aimed at British and American audiences.

What sort of source material do you tend to use, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
I use a wide range of sources, from print culture (periodicals, novels, pamphlets, comics, newspapers, memoirs) to oral history sources (interviews). I also use cinema, radio, television, stereoviews, picture postcards, cigarette cards, in fact, just about anything which might have been encountered in popular culture. These kinds of sources are hugely rich, and require attention to the visual material alongside other kinds of content. The only drawback is the overwhelming amount of evidence that could be drawn upon in doing twentieth century history, which can make selection a painful and difficult process!

Which individuals, events or forces are especially important in your area of history?
Two world wars, the invention of the modern interventionist state and the end of empire provide a landscape on which more abstract or personal changes can be seen - transformations of intimacy, the changing gender order, new versions of individualism.

How has your field developed over the course of your career?
Women's history and the history of feminism have been transformed by insights from those working with concepts of gender and masculinity. The field has become more 'mainstream', and gender is now a dimension of analysis that is included in much, perhaps most, of the historiography of the twentieth century.

Which areas of your field most urgently need further exploration?
The transformation of media studies into a genuine historical endeavour has been very exciting, and there is still a great deal of potential work to be done in writing the histories of particular media.

The history of emotions also seems to be an exciting place in which historians of gender could expect to find new insights and areas of study.

What characterises good history?
History in which the otherness of the past is respected, but is represented in a way which can make it conceptually relevant to the present. Good history is reflexive – in other words, historians writing good history are aware of their own situation, and don't try to write in an impersonal, 'objective' style.

How did your understanding of history change during your time as a university student?
I did not study history at the undergraduate level, and would emphasise that graduates from many other disciplines can become historians.

Where should somebody interested in your area of history go for further information?
A good place to start would be to read both primary source material (such as accounts of Mass Observation in the 1930s to the 50s, or Paul Thompson's interviews with Edwardians, all available online), and the accounts historians offer of the period. Journals such as Gender and History, Cultural and Social History or History Workshop Journal would also be recommended.