How did your interest in history start?
I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.
I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.
I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.
It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.
What will you be working on next?
I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want to set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.
Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.
Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).
Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII