June 19, 2012 by Vicki
Female history is, generally, written by male historians. Only Roman historical documents, which were written by men, describe Boudicca and her rebellion. This creates great difficulty in ascertaining the true history of Boudicca behind the myth created by the Romans. This is a problem common to most female histories. Generally speaking, men had the education and the wherewithal to be able to write the history of the time period.
When I was in University, I took a course on 16th Century female authors. I found it fascinating. The class discussed the authority of female writers as part of the course material. Historically, men have discouraged women from writing and publishing their works. The words, however, had to flow. Women have written diaries and letters throughout history. In Parrot Pie for Breakfast, it was observed that if they did not have their diary in which to vent; they would surely go mad. Consequently, women’s histories focus on the personal not the political. History, up until recently, has largely disregarded the personal life as unimportant, in contrast, with the larger political issues. History, therefore, regarded women’s writing as unimportant and without authority.
The tragedy of this mindset is we have to interpret the historical information on great women according to the biases and mindsets of the men writing the history. Some historians suggest that Boudicca may not have existed at all or was not as important to the Rebellion as Roman history suggests. These historians argue that having a woman in charge of the rebellion placed the Britons actions as “Other.” They suggest that Roman historians created the image of the people of Britain as less than human. Having a woman leading them furthers this image. It also suggests that Britain needs the male strength ofRometo lead them into humanity.
Patriarchal history supports the patriarchal system. If there had been a female historian writing about Boudicca then perhaps we would know something closer to the truth. However, in the case of Boudicca, the patriarchy might not have realised the strength of the myth they were creating (if it was a myth.)Elizabeth the first used images of Boudicca to support her reign as Queen. Boudicca seems to be tied into the very image of Britannia and her strength. I think we can all learn something from this transition. It is possible to subvert the actions of the patriarchy to support our strength and power. It is also possible for a woman to be remembered as a powerful force even when the might of the patriarchy stands against her.
I find it tragic that we have no female view on great women such as Boudicca. How did Roman and Iceni women of the age regard the rebellion of Boudicca? Did her actions inspire any of them to their own small rebellions? We also do not have much in the way of historical information from a female viewpoint about Roman society.
Today’s post was supposed to be a review of Miranda Aldhouse-Green’s Boudicca Britannia, however, I have not been able to finish the book as of yet. For this, I do apologize. I find history a much denser read then fiction. I shall post my actual review for Boudicca Britannia on Friday and then review Constance Beresford-Howe’s The Book of Eve on the following Tuesday. Please leave any comments or suggestions in the space below. I look forward to discussing female history with you. Thank you for reading.