Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Author & Historian Kate Williams

Could historian Kate Williams be the next Doctor Who? She can build her own Tardis, after all. Sitting in the Edwardian elegance of her north London house, the academic and novelist confides: "When I was a child one of my first games was a time machine which I made for my brother – a big box covered in silver and bits of cellophane. I'd close him up in it and joggle him and say, 'We're in Victorian times now... and now we're in Egyptian times and I can see all these pyramids and pharaohs.' He was like, 'Let me out.'"

These days her methods are more "bluestocking" than Blue Peter, as she puts it. Williams studies overlooked or crassly simplified women and reveals their complexity, intelligence and significance to history. Her first book, England's Mistress, was about Emma Hamilton, who became the mistress of Lord Nelson and was, as Williams says, "from nowhere, the poorest strata of society, intended for nothing more than being a ballast to the industrial revolution." When Williams discovered a letter by her "it was as if a whole heart had been betrayed on to the page."

The next, Becoming Queen, was about the youth of Queen Victoria, and soon, Williams will release Young Elizabeth, a biography of the present queen.

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