Eileen Power

Eileen Power

Eileen Power (1899-1940) was an important British economic historian and medievalist.


She was the eldest daughter of a stockbroker and was born at Altrincham (now part of Greater Manchester) in 1899. She was educated at Oxford High School for Girls, Girton College and the Sorbonne.


Power was Director of Studies in History at Girton College (1913-21), Lecturer in Political Science at the London School of Economics (1921-24), and Reader of the University of London (1924-31). In 1931 she became Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics (LSE), where she remained until 1938 when she became Professor of Economic History at Cambridge University.

Her most famous book, "Medieval People", was published in 1924. In 1927 Power founded the Economic History Review. In 1933 she joined LSE's head, 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.

Marriage and death

She married the historian Michael Postan in 1937, having previously been engaged to Reginald Johnston, tutor to Puyi.

Eileen Power died of heart failure in 1940.

Her book, "The Wool Trade in English Medieval History" (1941) was published posthumously. A collection of her lectures, "Medieval Women", was published in 1975.

Tributes and Memories

Kingsley Martin, "Father Figures" (1966):

In the autumn of 1924 I started work at the London School of Economics. Sir William Beveridge was director when I joined the staff in 1924. He accepted me first on a part-time basis. I never hit it off with Beveridge, though I recognised from the beginning that he was a man of extraordinary ability. I once, and only once, pleased Beveridge. I said that he "ruled over an empire on which the concrete never set". He was so delighted with this remark that he constantly quoted it, always attributing it, however, to Eileen Power, with whom, like everyone else, I assume he was more or less in love. Eileen, indeed, was one of the most attractive women I have ever known. She was good-looking, and carried her erudition as a medieval scholar with wit and grace. She wrote delightfully, her account of the domestic life of nunneries would never bore anyone, and her Medieval People showed that careful scholarship can be made popular and achieve large sales.

We used to speculate on whether she would marry; on the whole the betting was that an air ace would carry her off her feet, but in the end it was the excellent historian, Michael Postan, on whom the choice fell. There was no one who did not deeply regret her loss when she died suddenly of heart failure.

LSE website:

Her public lectures continued the nineteenth-century tradition of the lecture as an intellectual and political forum. She was a wonderful speaker, and her spoken eloquence used to fascinate her audience. In the eyes of former students, Eileen Power had opened their eyes to the varieties of political life, understanding, and tolerance. Gifted with considerable intellect and an attractive personality, she was an active and much loved figure among staff and students alike. She died suddenly in 1940 during the School's wartime evacuation at Peterhouse College, Cambridge.


* "The Paycockes of Coggeshall" (1919)
* "The Unconquered Knight. A Chronicle of the Deeds of Don Pero Nino, Count of Buelna de Gamez" (1920) editor
* "Medieval English Nunneries" (1922)
* "Medieval People" (1924)
* "Tudor Economic Documents" (1924, three volumes) editor with R. H. Tawney
* "Don Juan of Persia: A Shiah Catholic" (1926) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "Pero Tafur travels and adventures 1435-1439" (1926) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "Boys & Girls of History" (1926) with Rhoda Power
* "The Diary of Henry Teonge, Chaplain on Board H.M.'s Ships Assistance, Bristol, and Royal Oak, 1675-1679", editor with E. Denison Ross
* "John Macdonald Travels (1745-1779)" (1927) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "Cities and Their Stories, an Introduction to the Study Of European History" (1927) with Rhoda Power
* "Hans Staden. The True History of His Captivity - 1557" (1928) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "Hernando Cortes - Five Letters 1519-1526" (1928) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "Huc & Gabet. Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China 1844-46," George Routledge (1928, 2 volumes) ed. Eileen Power and E. Denison Ross
* "The Goodman of Paris (Le Ménagier de Paris): A Treatise on Moral and Domestic Economy By A Citizen of Paris c. 1393 " (1928) translator
* "More Boys & Girls of History" (1928) with Rhoda Power
* "Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte : Mozart's Librettist" (1929) editor with Elizabeth Drew
* "Sir Lancelot of the Lake : a French Prose Romance of the Thirteenth Century" (1929) editor with G. G. Coulton
* "The Autobiography of Ousama" (1929) editor with G. G. Coulton
* "Jahangir and the Jesuits" by Fernao Guerreiro, ed. Eileen Power and E. Denison Ross (1930); Routledge (2004) ISBN 0415344824
* "The Works of Liudprand of Cremona" (1930) editor with G. C. Coulton
* "Madame D'Aulnoy: Travels into Spain" (1930) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "English Trade in 15th Century" (1933) with Michael Postan
*"Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, the Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521" (1936) editor with E. Denison Ross
* "The Wool Trade in English Medieval History" (1941) The Ford Lectures for 1940.
* "Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Vol. 1: The Agrarian Life of the Middle Ages" (1942) editor with J. H. Clapham
* "Medieval Women" (1975)
* "Thomas Gage The English-American A New Survey of the West Indies 1648" editor with E. Denison Ross


* Maxine Berg, "A Woman in History: Eileen Power, 1889-1940" ( [http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/paper/maxberg.html review] )

External links

* [http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/LSEHistory/power.htm LSE page]
* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jpower.htm Page at Spartacus]

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