About Us, Flooding

Profile: Helen (Flood)

I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool, looking at flooding in early modern Staffordshire. My background is interdisciplinary, but primarily in history, with a strong tendency towards social history. Because of this, I’m inclined to focus on human responses to flooding environment, which will involve considering the socio-economic environment as much as the natural one. After all, human responses to an issue don’t always reflect its actual severity. In a time of growing population, enclosure, and technological change, it will be interesting to see the effect of floods on communities in Staffordshire in the 16th to 18th centuries.

My bachelors degree was in History and English at York, followed by an MA in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. I had became interested in disease and plague, and when I wrote an essay on cleaning and the plague, a tutor encouraged me to look further into thinking about the environment and people. Trying to write about early modern water supplies led me to deciding there might be something in a PhD about water, which led me here.

Living in York, I experienced the devastation of floods first hand in December 2015 and January 2016, as a museum I worked in at the time was inundated with up to one metre of water in places, was closed for over a year as a result. Although I personally was safe, I had colleagues who were evacuated, my route to work was almost entirely obstructed and I witnessed damage in areas that I would have expected to be completely safe from flood, including a pavement cracked from the pressure of water overflowing from drains. This created a renewed passion for the modern relevance of flooding as a historical subject, and I will be interested to see if there are any parallels between then and now.

I spend a lot of my time sewing, sewing, and sewing. And doing more sewing. My mum taught me to sew when I was a child, and then I taught myself dressmaking skills as an adult. I used to work as a costumed guide in museums, and made my own costumes, including two 16th century kirtles. Because I was always sewing something, I gained a bit of a reputation at work for always having a sewing kit with me, so people started bringing me costumes to mend (I’ve patched the crotch of a worrying number of Vikings’ trousers.) Modern clothing has proven a little more challenging, although I probably didn’t make it easy for myself by starting with my wedding dress.

My mum thinks I could be the next Lucy Worsley. I think I could be the next admittance to A&E, trying to explain how on earth I did that while sewing.

Our project twitter is @floodanddrought . We’re planning on using it to keep you up to date with what we are up to, what we’ve found, and let you know when we add anything to the blog.


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