Women in history;Reviews;Books;Features amp; Arts

12th November 1999 at 00:00
THE OTHER HALF OF HISTORY SERIES. By Fiona Macdonald. Nineteenth century Europe. Nineteenth century America. Women in Ancient Egypt. Ancient Greece. Belitha Press, pound;10.99 each.

When Sophia Jex-Blake attended medical lectures at Edinburgh in 1869 her fellow students brought in a sheep; if "lesser animals" such as women could be let in, they reasoned, then so could livestock. The sheep's excuse for bleating was that it was, after all, only a sheep, but what about the trainee doctors?

This example of prejudice and fear of professional competition, even in the educated elite, is one of the many lively and striking anecdotes through which Fiona Macdonald tells the story of women's lives and their struggle to be treated as full human beings during the 19th century.

Well organised and thorough, yet inviting and highly readable, the 19th-century volumes in this series would be valuable right up to GCSE. Clear layout and a wide range of illustrations provide plenty to stimulate interest in a broad sweep of social and political issues still current today.

Although they share the same high quality of writing and production, the two volumes on Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece are less exciting. Historians have so much less material, especially of the personal type, to work with here and the lack of social change makes it hard to drive a narrative.

Sue Jones has taught history at secondary level. 'Women at War 1900-45' and 'Women in a Changing World from 1945' will be published next April

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