Any circle is desperately broken by the loss of its most vivid personality; and learned circles-it may perhaps be said without offence-are not often over-endowed with vivid character. Eileen Power was very much more than a bit of a learned circle. All sorts of circles and groups touched at that dancing and radiant point. But this is a journal for students, for the learners and those who should be learned. Some other circles may have suffered less: I do not know. I do know that for these two the loss can hardly be measured. Economica: no, Eileen Power was not an economist. She was not trained as one. That is unimportant: Ricardo was not nor, I think, Jevons. Much more fundamental- she would have hated to spend her life with attention concentrated on one aspect of human activity, and could never have brought herself to neglect men and women for generalisations about them, bankers for their liquidity preferences or horse-dealers for J. A. Hobson’s doctrine of their bargains. And from the other side, as she was the first to allow, even proclaim, she had not that combina- tion of speculative and practical interest and sagacity which makes the ideal economist. Besides, there were aspects of economic life which always remained a little mysterious to her : she was not adept at the nicely calculated less or more. She spent the best years of her mature life in an atmosphere well impregnated with preferences and margins, various sorts of -polies, and all sorts of mathematical refine- ments in statistics, but retained an amused indifference to the finer and less human issues, combined with respect and affection for those who argue about them and a settled loyalty to the School of which they and she were parts. She was compact of loyalties, to institutions, to ideas, above all to people. But on the shelves of her splendid library you would find some scores of books of poetry to one “Principles of Economics” or any similar title; and she made no profession of loyalty to the ideas of Marshall or Marx, or any of their annotators. I suspect that her reading of them was a reading in them; and for Marshall I would not guarantee that. I have known her for twenty-seven years-not as an undergraduate; for during her early days at Girton I was not resident in Cambridge, and she never listened to me from a bench. We first met when she came back as a very young don to direct historical studies at Girton in 1913. She had taken her degree, a remarkably good one of course, in 1910. Next she laid the foundations of her later intimacies with French scholars, and gained an appreciation of how learning may be carried and conveyed by art, in study and research at the Sorbonne. Then she made her first contact with the London School of Economics as Shaw Student from 1911 to 1913. She appreciated London and the free life, and finally mastered the handling of records. So far as I know, she was occupied-professionally-with nothing else at that time but the medieval English nunneries. Her chief advisers were Professor Hamilton Thompson and Dr. Coulton. I say advisers because, although always most generously grateful for help, she cannot properly be called anyone’s pupil. She worked her, way along lines of her own choosing. In history, it was the social side that held her from the first, and the economic in relation but in subordination to the social. Yet she kept in touch all her life with many sides and epochs of history. And she could, I imagine, have passed easily from teaching History to teaching English. A year after she came back to Girton war brutally inter- rupted study. Work on the nunneries was checked, though not laid aside. The men’s colleges emptied far faster than in 1939-40, and University life became unnatural and ill- balanced. No doubt a certain distaste for that life as it is pursued here, which Eileen Power always retained, was due in part to its tainted flavour during those four harsh years from 1914 to 1918. But only in part. She resented fiercely-yes, that is the word-the survivals in the older Universities of inequality between the sexes; and she was a little impatient of the single-sex life of a women’s college, especially if any of its members defer to, or even acquiesce in, the academic dominance of men. Years later, she could not quite pardon a certain imaginary female Common Room for falling in ranks ‘for’ Lord Peter Wimsey. A chance for showing fight came about the middle of those war years. A big general course of lectures on English Economic History had to be provided because the man who had given them was going into government service. Eileen Power was already the obvious deputy. There was an interview with the Secretary of the Historical Board, a bachelor don who saw little of women and had no feminist sympathies. But he had humour and used to tell the story against himself with gusto. ” She was charming. We arranged everything in a few minutes. Then she uncovered her batteries-‘ Mr. , I shall not give these lectures unless I have a University lecture room ‘-What was I to do ? She got it.” In the Cambridge of 1916 a college lecturer, man or woman, had no right to one of the few University lecture rooms; and her status was that of lecturer in a women’s college. Whether she would have left Cambridge if she had not had the chance, and the experience, of an Albert Kahn Travelling Fellowship in 1920-1921. I do not know. But I think she would: she was getting restless here. After the Kahn years of wandering among races and civilisations and cities, after the Khyber Pass the Spice Islands and Pekin, with the stirring of a score of half-dormant wants and interests in a receptive many-sided personality, life in even the best of Cambridge colleges might seem a shade parochial. And there was always the dislike of the monstrous regiment of men. So when the chance came in 1921 she moved to London, its social variety, its Record Office and the London School where she was no stranger, to the vast regret of Girton and Cambridge. Before she sailed she had published her first book, a little one. The Paycockes of Coggeshall (1920) has only 66 pages, but it has all the ‘ notes ‘ of Eileen Power-friend- ships behind it, hum.an interest in the past, research lightly carried, a special care for wool in history. A year after her return (1922) came the only big book that she com- pleted, a very big book, more than 700 close pages of the Medieval English Nunneries, an early volume in Dr. Coulton’s series of Medieval Studies. I think myself that it is just a little too big. Perhaps it had been too long (nine or ten years) on the stocks; and she had used rather different sorts of timber in the building. Running through it again I even found some few bits of what I should call Ph.D. timber. Could it be Eileen Power who wrote (p. 98)- ” It is perhaps unnecessary to postulate that since monastic houses differed greatly in size and wealth, the sources of their income would differ accordingly ? ” But it was very much Eileen Power who wrote most of the book, and especially Chapter XI, ” The Olde Daunce “, nearly forty pages of which I would not sacrifice a line-gay, learned, full of the tears of things, moving without one clumsy step among the pitiful stories of apostate nuns, against whom ” the Church could call in the majesty of the State to help, and what was a girl to do ? Can one defy the King as well as the Bishop ? To a soul in hell must there be added a body in prison ?” Maitland could hardly have done it better. There is ‘economy’ in the book, but not a great deal. Nuns were poor accountants and what we know of their estates is not particularly interesting. But it was not written with the economic motive. Eileen Power set out to tell all that was worth telling about the English nunneries and their place in society. She did it so well, exploding old fallacies and uncovering fresh truth, that no one need try the theme again for a generation or two. The books of the next few years were lighter, not volumes for severe scholars, but possibly something better-Medieval People (1924), The Goodman of Paris (1928). Of a different class, the three volumes of Tudor Economic Documents (1924), edited for students with Professor Tawney, did not give her the chance of showing constructive qualities. There is no regular introduction-not that this is a fault-and I do not know how the work of selection, which is of course excellent, was shared between the editors. By this time Eileen Power was a Reader in Medieval Economic History in the University of London. Of her University work in the twenties and early thirties here is an outside friend’s impression, which insiders must amplify or query as they read. Heavy lecturing, day and night, carried on not merely with devotion but with pleasure, and patently successful: much private direction of studies and research, which soon bore fruit : an interest in, and a willingness to undertake, teaching far outside the range that the title of her office suggests (she was very fond of some of her modern teaching) : a generosity in shouldering the work of a colleague sick or on leave which we outsiders used to think was abused by the local authorities; and a warm loyalty to the School, which did not interfere with witty and incisive criticism of some aspects of its govern- ment. Promotion to a professorship came in 193I. All through her London life the circles that she touched were increasing in a way rather bewildering to people of few circles. The passion for travel-travel was her reported recreation when her name first appeared in Who’s Who-led to an active interest in travel publication and the editorship, with Sir Denison Ross, of the Broadway Traveller’s Series. In later editions of Who’s Who after ‘ travel’ came ‘ and dancing’. The woman professor is not very common, even yet, even in London. The woman professor with ‘and dancing’ in Who’s Who was unique. Her library was that of a woman of learning, a woman of letters and a collector of books, all combined. Her rooms were full of beautiful things, mostly Chinese. And-this is important-her dress was appropriate to her rooms, although not mostly Chinese. At some learned gathering not very long ago it seemed to my eye more than usually glittering: ” Eileen, you look like Semiramis…” ” I thought I looked like a Professor of Economic History.” She was in. touch with most of literary London and did a great deal of reviewing, mainly for the New Statesman. Brilliant reviewing it was. There are notices of hers years old over the imperfect memory of which one still chuckles happily. Then there were music and the drama and the ballet, with the appropriate societies. Hospitality as con- ducted at 20, Mecklenburgh Square, was as delicate and generous as everything else in the house. Relatives and scholars and all the different sorts of friends, and the children of friends, shared it in perpetual succession. If Eileen was away, the comforts of her house would constantly be free to one or other of these people. And all that the house- keeper of No. 20 did for her mistress-but that was a word not current there-she did as gladly and efficiently for anyone who shared her opinion of ‘Miss Eileen’. The word mistress was not current, mainly because Eileen was by nature a friend of all the world, but partly because of her undogmatic Labour-Socialist principles, rooted in sympathy for the unfortunate and real hatred of public or international injustice. If one insinuated that the library and the travel, the frocks that indicated a Professor- of Economic History, the space and furnishings of No. 2o, even those endless generosities mostly so intimate that they cannot be written down, might not all be permitted to single women, however eminent, in the classless society when it comes, she took it all with her gay smile, went on as before, and paid twenty guineas for the next professorial outfit. She was not a stickler for petty consistency. To get back to work. If one cannot put it in so many words that she founded the Economic History Society in 1926 and so made possible the first number of the Economic History Review in January, 1927, it is certain that she was Secretary of the Society from the beginning and always a prime source of its vitality. Before the Review was founded, her travels, her old associations with Paris, the opportunities which London gives for meeting visitors to Museum Street and Chancery Lane-and always the charm of her society- had given her a wide range of scholar friends, American, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Russian, German, but above all French and Belgian. Elie Halevy and Marc Bloch, Pirenne and Ganshof are the first names that come to mind; but there were very many others. In her own field I think Marc Bloch was the man she most admired, for his books and his inspiring editorship of the Annales d’histoire economique et sociale, a journal whose full name describes exactly the sort of history she cared for most. The straiter sect of economic historians may be reminded that, just as Eileen Power began large-scale work with Medieval Nunneries so Marc Bloch began with Les rois thaumaturges, a full study of the faith that in England led to ‘ touching for the Kings Evil’. The Review, of which she was never an editor but always a member of the editorial committee, gave every opportunity for utilising and widening all these international connections. In the end there were few English historians better known outside England. A recognition of this came a few years ago when, to her undisguised delight, she was made a Corresponding Member of the very ‘select’ Medieval Academy of America. From the time of the Paycockes of Coggeshall and after the Nunneries were published the leisure time for research that she always managed to make was filling up with medieval wool. The first printed result, so far as I can recall, was “The English Wool Trade in the Reign of Edward IV.” in the Cambridge Historical Yournal for 1926. She reminded us that, famous as the medieval wool trade was, ” its history was still largely unwritten “. Fier habit was to work back and forward between the trade and the flocks that supplied it, her main interests seeming to lie sometimes in the English countryside and sometimes among the merchants. She wandered into other countrysides in order to prepare and eventually to publish in 1932, in Vol. VII. of the Cambridge Medieval History, an admirable and, what is rarer in joint-stock history, a most readable chapter on ” Peasant Life and Rural Conditions “. Meanwhile there had begun a scholarly partnership which was to become closer in time. In I932 appeared the Studies in the History of English Trade in the Fifteenth Century, edited by Eileen Power and M. M. Postan. It was the result of several years’ work in a seminar, and only those who were members and contributors can say just how much of the inspiration and guidance for the various sections was hers. I should guess most of both. Her own contribution was a 50-page article on the Wool Trade which developed the themes touched on in the much shorter article of I926 and went a very long way towards removing the reproach that the trade’s history was “largely unwritten “. This wool trade work was very valuable and strictly original; but I hope I shall not be accused of indifference to wool-I have handled it as best I could in my time-if I say that for my private reading I prefer Eileen Power on “The Olde Daunce” to Eileen Power on ” shorlings and morlings ” and ” locchi “, or even on deferred payments and credit. She was acquainted with problems of deferred payment but had no natural relish for them. The Pastons and Celys and their like help to keep her wool narrative alive, and as they used to say in the trade ‘ lofty ‘ ; but there is not so much room in it for her own personality, a thing vastly more important than her learning, as there was in the story of the fallen nuns. All the time her many activities were never interrupted. They only multiplied. She was seen more in Cambridge when she accepted a place on the governing body of Girton. The last queer remlnant of inequality between the sexes which a reformed Cambridge retains she treated with amused ridicule, and I dare say a bit of contempt. But she knew and admitted generously-how that word generous recurs: there is reason-that women there had got nearly all. She saw them on Factulty Boards; holding University Lectureships and eligible for Professorships; examining in the Triposes. She came to her first History Tripos dinner -hitherto a very male orgy-in the Combination Room at King’s as my guest, and to accompany the first woman examiner, who was also her closest Cambridge friend. She dressed for the triumph; enjoyed it immensely; and raised the level of talk and wit in that Combination Room. Some years later, when the new chair of Economic History in Cambridge was to fall vacant, she knew very well that, if she cared to stand, hers would be a very strong candidature. There is an elder statesman of conservative leanings at Cambridge who let me know, with statesmanlike caution, that as chairs were now open to women, why, that was the sort of woman we wanted. I did my best to persuade her to stand, but in the end she decided not to let her name go forward. Cambridge appointed her working partner as she had wished. Meanwhile Oxford had paid her a compliment almost as high as Cambridge could have done if it had seen fit to offer her a chair. She was invited to give the Ford Lectures for 1938-9. Into them she put the cream of her years of work on medieval wool and wool people. The lectures, like all her lectures, her talks and her after-dinner speeches, vere an immense success. I did not hear them and I have not seen the MS. which, everyone will be glad to know, is nearly ready for publication. It is hoped that when the storms are over ways may be found for publishing with the lectures some at least of the masses of close research on which they were based. Of one activity of these later years I am able to speak with rather special knowledge. Long ago she began to tell me that the Cambridge Modern History was deficient on the economic side and the Cambridge Medieval History not nearly so full on that side as it should be-though she had written for the Medieval and I had written for both. This needed no telling. Had not Keynes spoken some- where of a plunge into the rather dense waters of the Modern and a failure to bring up one single reference to the price revolution of the sixteenth century ? What was to be done ? A new edition economically adequate or a new book ? We decided for the new book -a Cambridge Economic History parallel to the two others, but on a smaller scale. The Syndics of the University Press agreed at once and appointed the two projectors its editors. Eileen Power was to have prime responsibility for the mnedieval volumes-the plan was for three of these-and her colleague for the modern, another three or four. We were to leave the Ancient World because the Cambridge Ancient History was still unfinished, and was giving more attention to economic things than its predecessors had. We got to work in 1934. The plan for the medieval volumes was hers, but elaborated in co-operation with the colleague at the London School, already very near to her and to become much nearer after he had left it. Rigid chronological treatment was to be avoided and contributors were to be few, each to take a big theme and treat it com- paratively. When we got to work we were a little dis- appointed to find that the number of scholars with the nerve for such treatment was less than we had hoped. The central section of our first volume and some sections of our second had to be more subdivided than we had wished because the man who knew all about Lilliput might profess his inability to compare it with Laputa or Brobdingnag. Eileen Power had incisive ways of referring to such people. This first volume was to be, is to be, agrarian. My colleague had just finished some editorial work on its last chapter when she was taken; but, war or peace, the volume shall be out early next year. As the contributors come from ten different countries, it will be understood that there were editorial difficulties even before September, 1939. For the other medieval-the Power-volumes, equally international in design, her colleague has the full scheme, the contributors, and a few of the chapters; but not her chapter in Vol. II, nor any immediate prospect of getting many others. Yet, thanks to her conception, the agrarian volume is a whole and can stand alone, as it must, until the nations can co-operate again. The last two and a half years of her life were a time of great private happiness and growing public misery. What man has made of man nearly broke her indomitable heart before it was broken by act of God. But I will think of her in the garden of the house that they had just built not very far from mine, gay through all her distress, enjoying with the zest of a girl what was to her a new outdoor activity and surrounded by her springing flowers.
[J. H. CLAPHAM. “Eileen Power, 1889-1940”, in Economica, New Series, vol. VII, nº 28, noviembre de 1940, pp. 351-359]