I first became a fan of Lucy Worsley at the National Trust Annual General Meeting in 2010, where she spoke with equal amounts of passion and charm against the idea that “‘bringing properties to life’ is just another way of saying ‘dumbing them down’”. I’d like to say that she had the audience cheering in the aisles – but that’s not really the sort of thing that happens at the National Trust AGM. She did however get an enthusiastic round of applause for her description of the impact that she’s made with ‘showmanship, storytelling and sharing’ at Historic Royal Palaces where she’s Chief Curator. The other speakers, despite their eloquent erudition, sounded defensive and fusty by comparison.
Three years on I’m delighted therefore to have the opportunity to welcome Lucy to The National Archives on 10 September as our latest Writer of the Month. Since 2010 she has become a familiar face to BBC4-addicts, presenting various series including the wonderfully-named ‘Harlots, Housewives and Heroines’. We often enjoy a bit of triple alliteration ourselves here at the archives, and that particular combination must have been the result of an especially creative idea generation session!
Lucy will be talking in September about her book ‘If Walls Could Talk, an Intimate History of the Home’ which was also the subject of a television series of the same name. Don’t be fooled by the apparently architectural reference in the title, the key word here is most definitely ‘intimate’. The book presents a wealth of fascinating detail from the way that lives were lived through the ages, and doesn’t shy away from very personal topics such as sex and personal hygiene. In fact one of the more thought-provoking aspects of the book is how attitudes to privacy have changed over time, with different rules applying at different times depending on your gender, prosperity and position in society.
While the colour plates in the book can’t quite reproduce Lucy’s exploits on television (whether striding around in her signature colourful coats or playing the part in period costume) it builds on the programme content with even more intriguing insights and yet is still very easy and enjoyable to read. When did you last pick up a book that told stories ranging from how Henry VIII used laxatives (to great effect, apparently) right up to the groundbreaking introduction of the duvet by Habitat in the 1960s?
Lucy Worsley will discuss her book ‘If Walls Could Talk, an Intimate History of the Home‘ at The National Archives on Tuesday 10 September as part of our Writer of the Month series. The talk is fully booked, but please email email@example.com to join the waiting list. A podcast of the talk will be available on our site later in the month.