Friday, 28 February 2014

Women - a white spot in the history books!

An interesting article in DN about the lack of women in our history books. The article is written by several Swedish historians. I am sure that the trend is the same in other parts of the world as well. There have been a lot of strong, important women in history. But the world was always run by men and somehow women stayed in the background. Now they want to make all these women visible.

There are a lot of research that shows that women have been in powerful positions running countries, government, estates, farms, trading houses etc for several centuries. However, these new facts are not visible in the school books and the publishers do not want to pay for re-writing the history books. Therefore the school children in Sweden still only learns about "middle age men with power, from Sten Sture to Gustav Vasa, via Axel Oxenstierna and Carl XIV Johan to Per Albin Hansson and Olof Palme."

Through a re-write we could learn that there have been a lot of women ever since the Middle Ages who have been governing in many places in the world.
We have to remember that in those days, most of the
time, the men were out fighting wars and the women were the ones taking care of - be it - the castle, the farm, the trading company or whatever. Many queens shared the power with their kings and had an important role to play.
Marie Curie
It is easy to get to know about queens and noble ladies through written evidence. However, more difficult to get information on the common people. However, the facts speak for themselves. During the first two decades of the 18th century during the Nordic wars (Carl XII), around 200.000 Swedish men, almost half of the grown up male population, died in the field, mostly of dysentery. That the country survived was due to the fact that the women took over the men's places both high and low. The number of female responsible for castles, manors and farm increased tremendously and influenced the economic outcome both in the city and in the countryside.

One reason why women have been forgotten - the historians argue - could be that the society was typical male during the 19th and 20th centuries during the industrialisation and urbanisation. Our idea of the past are fixed at that time because this was also an epoch where new sciences like history and archeology was introduced. At this time history was split into different ages; stone, bronze and iron; that is, focusing on tools that were mainly used by male craftsmen. This was the time when history was connected to kings, war and other male activities and this was the time when the women in history were forgotten.

It is indeed very interesting. In the literary world I think we see a lot of more biographies, history or historical fiction books about strong women all through history. This is very rewarding. Here are some examples:

The Duchess of Milan by Michael Ennis, Roses have Thorns by Sandra Byrd, Paris på de älskandes tid (about George Sand) by Knut Ståhlberg, The Bürgemeister's Daughter: Scandal in a Sexteenth-Century German Town by Steven Ozment, Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross, Marilyn by Normal Mailer and Blondie by Joyce Carol Oates. 

You might have some other to suggest?

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