Queer Places:
20 Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AD
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ
Golders Green Crematorium Golders Green, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England

Eileen Power.jpgEileen Edna Le Poer Power (9 January 1889 – 8 August 1940) was a British economic historian and medievalist.[1] She pretended to be a man in order to climb the Khyber Pass, and lately was occupied with researching women in medieval nunneries and complaining to the LSE administration about the unjust salaries paid to women staff.

Eileen Power was the eldest daughter of a stockbroker and was born at Altrincham (now part of Greater Manchester) in 1889. She was a sister of Rhoda Power, the children's writer and broadcaster, and Beryl Millicent Le Poer Power, a civil servant (1891-1974)[2]. When she was three her father, a stockbroker, was arrested for fraud and the family moved to Bournemouth to live with Benson Clegg (Power's grandfather). After her mother died of tuberculosis when Power was only 14, she moved to Oxford with her two sisters to live with her aunt[3]. Power was educated at Oxford High School for Girls, Girton College, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. Power was a granddaughter of the Revd Philip Bennett Power. Revd Philip Bennett Power, a prolific writer of evangelical tracts, was originally from Waterford, Ireland. [4]

Power was Director of Studies in History at Girton College, University of Cambridge (1913–21), Lecturer in Political Science at the London School of Economics (1921–24), and Reader of the University of London (1924–31). In 1910 she was awarded the Gilchrist research fellowship and studied at the University of Paris and the École des Chartes. From 1922 until her death in 1940 she lived in Mecklenburgh Square, on the fringes of Bloomsbury.[5] In 1931 she became the second woman to be appointed to the Chair of Economic History at the London School of Economics (LSE).[6] When she was appointed, three specific reasons were mentioned: "(1) Her contributions by research to the advancement of social and economic history; (2) her known powers as a teacher; and (3) her high standing as a social and economic historian"[7]

Power was the first woman to be awarded the Albert Kahn travelling scholarship in 1920[8], despite the panel's concern that ladies 'might commit matrimony' defeating the 'objects of the trust'. The Albert Kahn travelling scholarship was founded to "enable persons of proved intellectual attainments to enjoy a year's travel round the world, free from all professional pursuits, with a view to an unprejudiced survey of various civilizations, a comparison of other human values with those already known, and the acquisition of a more generous and philosophic outlook on human life."[9] She travelled to India, China and Japan. She fell in love with China and returned several times during her lifetime. She produced a report on her travels during 1921 entitled Report to the Trustees of the Albert Kahn Travelling Fellowship, September 1920 – September 1921. A specialist in medieval history, when broadcasting the BBC schools programmes with Rhoda, she was determined to emphasise social history over dates and battles. Her most famous book, Medieval People, was published in 1924. In 1927 Power founded the Economic History Review. In 1933 she joined the head of LSE, William Beveridge, in establishing the Academic Freedom Committee, an organization that helped academics fleeing from Nazi Germany. A critic of Britain's foreign policy, Power was an active member of the Union of Democratic Control. From 1926, she and Edward Denison Ross edited The Broadway Travellers, a book series of 26 works which was published by George Routledge & Sons.[10] At LSE, she mentored Eleanora Carus-Wilson.[11] She was made corresponding fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 1936, she received an honorary D Litt from Mount Holyoke in 1937.[12]

In 1937 Power married her pupil and colleague, the historian Michael Postan, Professor of Economic History at the University of Cambridge, having previously been engaged to Reginald Johnston, tutor to the last Emperor of China, Puyi. She died of heart failure in 1940. Her book The Wool Trade in English Medieval History (1941) was published posthumously. Medieval Women was reissued in 1975. In the 1940s her sister endowed a "Power Feast" in Eileen's memory for some of the world's eminent historians to gather in honour of her immense contribution to historical scholarship. This is still celebrated at Girton College to this day.[13] In 2017, she featured in a conference, London's Women Historians, held at the Institute of Historical Research.[14]


My published books:

See my published books

BACK TO HOME PAGE