Episode 36: The Study

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929)

Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things that you did not know had a history; like the history of chickens, or the history of tears.

For this episode let us join the detective of dynasties, Professor James Daybell, and the anarchist archivist of antiquity, Dr Sam Willis, as they, with studious intent, study the study.

From James’ and Sam’s own areas of contemplation to the differing contents of the sixteenth-century ‘closets’ of both Sir William More and his second wife Margaret Daniell, from the study of Thomas Jefferson and its scientific instruments to Roald Dahl’s shed inspired by Dylan Thomas, and from  Virginia Woolf’s own stark working space to her famous study concerning the constraints and limitations that women faced in becoming writers, James and Sam will take you on an emotive and impassioned journey through the evolution of the historian’s favourite  private space.

So, listen and enjoy the thematically collated tomes as James and Sam discover that this unexpected history is actually all about; privacy and prayer, thought and correspondence, reading and retreat, wealth and access, innovation and architecture, ordering and filing, gender and independence, dust testing and Luddite thinking!


Listen out as James lets us know just what would make him a ‘happy happy man’ (if you have a spare few hundred pounds that is!), and Sam tells us what his feet are attached too, and no its not his legs!


“Crystal harbour vale

Where the sea cobbles sail,

And wharves of water where the walls dance and the white

cranes stilt.”                       (Extract from Dylan Thomas Over Sir John’s Hill, published 1951, believed to be the first poem Thomas wrote from his writing shed and describes the view from the shed)

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