Femina

Femina

A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It

Summary

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'Janina Ramirez is a born storyteller, and in Femina she is at the peak of her powers. This is bravura narrative history underpinned by passionate advocacy for the women whom medieval history has too often ignored or overlooked. Femina is essential reading' - Dan Jones, bestselling author of The Plantagenets and Powers and Thrones
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'I am the fiery life of divine substance, I blaze above the beauty of the fields, I shine in the waters, I burn in sun, moon and stars' - Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179)


The middle ages are seen as a bloodthirsty time of Vikings, saints and kings: a patriarchal society which oppressed and excluded women. But when we dig a little deeper into the truth, we can see that the 'dark' ages were anything but.

Oxford and BBC historian Janina Ramirez has uncovered countless influential women's names struck out of historical records, with the word FEMINA annotated beside them. As gatekeepers of the past ordered books to be burnt, artworks to be destroyed, and new versions of myths, legends and historical documents to be produced, our view of history has been manipulated.

Only now, through a careful examination of the artefacts, writings and possessions they left behind, are the influential and multifaceted lives of women emerging. Femina goes beyond the official records to uncover the true impact of women like Jadwiga, the only female King in Europe, Margery Kempe, who exploited her image and story to ensure her notoriety, and the Loftus Princess, whose existence gives us clues about the beginnings of Christianity in England. See the medieval world with fresh eyes and discover why these remarkable women were removed from our collective memories.

Reviews

  • Revelatory... Ramirez shows again and again that dark age Europe was a far more various place than we like to believe
    Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

About the author

Janina Ramirez

Dr Janina Ramirez is a presenter, lecturer and researcher, specialising in interpreting symbols and examining art works within their historical context. She is Course Director for the Undergraduate Certificate and Diploma in History of Art at the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University. She has published widely on medieval art and literature, and has taught and researched across a broad chronological sweep, covering everything from the sculptures of antiquity to post-modern architecture. She has also written and presented a number of documentaries for BBC4 and Radio Four, and is a regular guest presenter of Front Row. She is a passionate and enthused academic driven by a desire to share ideas.
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