Kate Williams (historian)

British historian

Kate Williams (born 1974) is a British historian, author, and television presenter. She is a Professor of Public Engagement with History at the University of Reading.

Kate Williams in 2014


  • In a history book, you can't imagine, you can't speculate, you can't conjure new worlds because that would ruin the history book. .... And in a novel you can't have too much fact-dumping, too much history, it just doesn't work, too much footnoting, again that ruins the story. So I love the fact that I can do speculation and imagination in one and go wild in a novel and then do proper, scrupulous research in the other. I think they compliment each other.
  • Large families were really in fashion [in Victorian England], they were seen as a status symbol, they were seen as an example of how the man was very virile. The reality was that, like Victoria, people were pregnant repeatedly. Every three months or so they might fall pregnant, so the average woman was pretty much pregnant or about to be pregnant for most of her early married life.
  • A country with a sense of purpose should encourage free speech and debate, but instead we have a Conservative whip on a strange mission to audit university teaching on Brexit. Pretty McCarthyite. And on the other side, confusion about who should and shouldn't be allowed to speak. We should nurture great minds of the future, not tunnel their vision.
  • We have some of the greatest photographs of all time cemented in our [the United Kingdom's] national identity, but we don't have the whole picture. Our understanding of history and the country is shaped by the images the survive.
  • History is so important. It explores and tells us who we are. We should be doing more of it as a country, not less.
  • I've heard people say, ‘Well, history is protected at the top Russell Group universities’. But that is a really dangerous route to go down. Are we saying that if people don’t get 3As, they don’t deserve to do history? It should be a degree that is open to all, and that means it must be available to those who want to study locally. Otherwise we might as well be going back to the Victorian period when this sort of university education was only for elite men.
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