Interview with Historian Natasha George

27 July 2016

By Lois

As a young person who is passionate about history, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to speak to Natasha George, a historian who excelled at university, where her degree focused on Medieval and Renaissance Medicine, and later mental health and medicine, alongside theories of mental illness. Her dissertation focused on ‘the comparison of the rise of psychology and the psychological society and the eugenics movement’.

At school, George was extremely successful, achieving two As and two A*s at A-level. Whilst having a clear natural ability and intelligence, with predicted grades far above the threshold universities were asking, she feels that when it came to applying for university her applications would have been considered differently had she been educated at a private school or grammar school, as opposed to the comprehensive Catholic primary and secondary schools she did attend.

Whilst studying at the Queen Mary University of London (which she would recommend to any young people considering a degree in history because of the breadth of history available to study), George tutored peers in her spare time. She said: “I was part of the student union which helped first year students grasp essay writing, and generally aid with context and application.”

During this time, some of her work was published in the Queen Mary Undergraduate Journal, including a paper she wrote about the trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh, regarding a book they published called ‘The Knowlton Book’. The book advocated women’s control over their sexuality and referred to birth control and limiting the size of families. The pair were vigorously opposed to the church and the book was deemed inappropriate during the strongly religious time. “Besant was a pioneer in women’s rights and birth control and I was very passionate about both of these issues,” said George. This echoes her interest in politics, which her passionate nature has lead her to become quite involved in, attending marches such as the recent anti-Brexit march, and before that a march in favour of allowing more refugees into the UK.

Similarly, the women she cites as her influences share the traits she feels are her strongest; all are passionate, determined women who are known for their daring and strength of character. Elizabeth the first, for example, was a notorious female leader famous for her dedication to her country. Marie Stopes was a pioneer in women’s rights and family planning, who founded the first birth control clinic in Britain. Then finally Emily Dickinson, whose “bold and unconventional style” she admires.

George feels that from these already existing interests and abilities, she sculpted many of her beliefs whilst at university. She is grateful for the skill set she grew from studying her degree, including research skills, public speaking, understanding modern politics and the foundation of our modern society. She said, “‘It helped me have a voice in society, by engaging with politics, attending political marches and being a member of the debating society.” She says studying in London gave her an independence she enjoyed, but that came at a price, literally, on account of how expensive the capital is. This meant she had to learn to balance two workloads, and stay up later in order to complete all of her reading.

After she graduated she immediately became PA to the CEO of a start-up company working with medical devices which could assist with dementia, and now works as an office manager for a company in a similar field. She is keen to work closer to history in the future, and hopes to branch into events planning and tie this into historic exhibitions and shows.

In speaking to George, she struck me as overwhelmingly kind and obliging, and as someone who wishes to pursue a career in a similar field, it was hugely useful to speak to someone who comes across as clearly intelligent and genuinely invested in her subject. Her good nature and strong academic attributes leave the impression she is headed for great things, and characters such as herself serve as an example and inspiration to young people hoping to follow a similar path, and as an answer to ‘what could higher education do for me’. Many young people are being deterred from going into university as a result of high tuition fees, but the benefits, even if they are simply related to how you grow as a person, often outweigh the negatives. The quotation ‘If you think education is expensive, think of the cost of ignorance’ comes to mind, and referring more specifically to history (for those who believe it is not worth studying), ‘If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree’.

I would like to thank Mrs George for speaking to me and wish her all the best in her future ventures.

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