Why are you a historian of women’s history?
Because I’m always looking for history’s underdogs – the people written out or overlooked.
What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That battles, disasters and cataclysms are significant, but that there are many aspects of life that tie us together across the millennia.
Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?
Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (1995).
What book in your field should everyone read?
Angela Saini’s The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule (2023).
Which moment would you most like to go back to?
I’d love to see Cynethryth’s monastery at Cookham. She’s remembered (if at all) as Offa’s wife, but established a vibrant hub for trade and creativity on the Thames in the eighth century, which we’re only just starting to piece together.
Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?
Bede the Venerable. His Ecclesiastical History is remarkable for the period.
Which person in history would you most like to have met?
Hildegard of Bingen.
How many languages do you have?
Old English, Old Norse, Middle English, Latin, some French, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
What historical topic have you changed your mind on?
There are few I haven’t!
What is the most common misconception about your field?
That I deal in dates, data and deeds.
Who is the most underrated person in history…
Those who weren’t recorded ‘Great Men’ by historians of the past few centuries.
… and the most overrated?
So many of the aforementioned ‘Great Men’.
What’s the most exciting field in history today?
Ancient DNA analysis.
Is there an important historical text you have not read?
I’ve never made it through all of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
What’s your favourite archive?
The Bodleian’s manuscript collection.
What’s the best museum?
What technology has changed the world the most?
Recommend us a historical novel…
Sarah Bower’s The Needle in the Blood (2007).
… and a historical drama?
What will future generations judge us most harshly for?
Plastic waste and failure to write on vellum.
Janina Ramirez is Research Fellow in History of Art at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford. Beowulf, introduced by Janina Ramirez and illustrated by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, is available exclusively from foliosociety.com.