Olwen Hufton

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Dame Olwen H. Hufton, DBE, FBA, FRHistS (born 1938, Oldham, Lancashire, England)[1]is a historian of early modern Europe and a pioneer of social history and of women's history. Hufton is an expert on Early Modern, western European comparative socio-cultural history with special emphasis on gender, poverty, social relations, religion and work. In 2006 she joined Royal Holloway as a part-time Professorial Research Fellow in the History Department.


Olwen was seven before she saw a banana, at the end of the war. No-one would envy the material constraints of such a childhood, but on one reading it might be deemed good preparation for an historian of poverty. In due course Olwen was awarded a scholarship at a local grammar school, and became the only council house child in her form. She went from there to University College London (UCL), where she encountered Alfred Cobban, the great revisionist historian of the French Revolution. It was Cobban (together with the French historian François Furet) who first advanced the view that the life of most French people (including women) was little changed by the Revolution, and indeed that the urban poor were worse off as a result of the abolition of the tithe by the National Constituent Assembly, because the tithe funded the charitable work of the church. In this perception lay the seeds of what would prove to be a lifetime's work for Olwen Hufton.

Olwen’s academic career began as a lecturer at the University of Leicester from 1963-1966. From Leicester Olwen moved to the University of Reading, where she taught for more than twenty years, and then to Harvard, where in 1988 she became the University's first Professor of Modern History and Women’s Studies. After four years in America, Olwen returned to Europe to become Professor of History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in Florence. Six years later, in 1997, she returned to England to become Leverhulme Professor of History at Oxford. She retired in 2003, and is now Fellow Emeritus of Merton College, Oxford.

Her honours include a Fellowship of the British Academy (1993), appointment by the Queen as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2004), honorary fellowships at UCL and Royal Holloway, honorary degrees from Reading and Southampton and an Oxford Festschrift called The Art of Survival. Beyond these high honours, there has also been recognition by those at the heart of any university -- the students; University of Glasgow hosts a Hufton Postgraduate Reading Group centred on women's history.

Honours and affiliations[edit]

Hufton is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society.

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2004.


  • Bayeux in the Late Eighteenth Century. (Oxford, 1967)
  • The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France (Oxford, 1974)
  • Women and the Limits of Citizenship in the French Revolution (Toronto, 1992)
  • The Prospect Before her: A History of Women in Western Europe, I: 1500-1800 (London, 1995)
  • Europe: Privilege and Protest 1730-1789 (Oxford, 2000).

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Birth registered in 1938 at Oldham, Lancashire per Findmypast