Constructing the persona of a Professional Historian. On Eileen Power's early career persona formation and her year in Paris, 1910-1911

Rozemarijn van de Wal


British medieval historian Eileen Power (1889-1940) was one of Britain's most eminent female historians of the first half of the twentieth century. Becoming professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics in 1931, Power gained academic recognition to a degree that was difficult for women to obtain in this period. Numerous writings on Power discuss 1920-1921, when she travelled around the world as an Albert-Kahn fellow, as a formative year in her career indicating the importance of travel for achieving scholarly success. In contrast, no attention has been paid to the significance of Power's first academic journey in 1910-1911, when she spent a year in Paris. This stay abroad would however be equally decisive since it was then that she decided to pursue a career in history and become a professional scholar in the medieval discipline. 

However, at this time, women were not self-evident scholars but rather considered amateurs, even if they had an academic degree. Therefore, the main question in this article is whether and how Power started to build up her scholarly persona while in Paris, trying to overcome her amateur status, to be seen and recognized as a credible, trustworthy scholar. To do so, I analyse two types of personal writing namely Power's diary and letters to her close friend Margery Garrett. Employing the concept of 'autobiographical performativity', I consider these writings as performative acts that help us gain valuable insight into Eileen Power's persona formation during the early stages of her career. 


Biography; life-writing; scholarly persona

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