Professor Laura Gowing
Professor of Early Modern History
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
What drew me into history was the intimate detail of lives in the past. I could pin it down to the Museum of London kids' archaeology club in the 1970s, Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie's wonderful book Montaillou, and discovering women's history in the 1980s.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
I wrote my PhD on women in an early modern courtroom, focusing on sexual insult and marital conflict. Since then, my work has often featured legal records as a means of recovering the lost worlds of plebeian women at a time when most of them could not write. My books include Domestic Dangers, 1996; Common Bodies, 2003; and two books introducing primary sources (Women’s Worlds, 2000; Gender Relations in Early Modern England, 2013). I’m interested in what gender meant before the modern era, in the body and its experiences, and in close reading of the language of historical records.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I've found it incredibly rewarding being part of the collective who edit History Workshop Journal, and listening to the work of younger scholars at the seminars I convene at the Institute of Historical Research.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I was lucky enough to be supervised by Lyndal Roper, who later became Oxford's Regius Professor of Modern History – rigorous and inspiring supervision is a really wonderful training. Trish Crawford at the University of Western Australia modelled academic friendship and generosity of spirit. And here at King's, Jinty Nelson has risen to the heights of our profession and been a truly great colleague – all of them, as well as producing really individual and ambitious work, have been dedicated to supporting younger scholars.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
The most enjoyable part of working at King's is always the students. Every year is a different intellectual journey.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
I don't know any academic these days who balances the three elements – my aim is to keep research central, but administration eats it like a wolf. Having research-related teaching makes it somewhat easier.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
I try to carve out workfree sections of the day, and I don't work (much) at weekends.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Gender inequality in all its forms is insidious and deep-rooted, but a few committed people can make a huge difference.