Our annual Roy Jenkins Memorial event celebrates political biography, the form Jenkins was best known for. Given the historical predominance of men in political positions, much political biography is male-focused, with women written about later, their stories often lost to history.
Chaired by Zing Tsjeng, author of the Forgotten Women series, this event brings together Elleke Boehmer, Colin Grant and Sonia Purnell, to discuss which women are remembered from history, the politics of biographical writing, and how we can canonise and celebrate political women today.
Elleke Boehmer is Professor of World Literature in English at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Wolfson College, and Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) at Wolfson College. Her most recent books are Postcolonial Poetics, a study of how we read postcolonial and world literatures today, and To the Volcano, a collection of short stories. She is currenlty preparing a second edition of her widely translated biography of Nelson Mandela (2008). She was elected an RSL Fellow in 2019.
Colin Grant is an historian and Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies, and was formerly a producer for BBC Radio. His latest book Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s.
Sonia Purnell is an author, journalist and broadcaster. Her first book, Just Boris, was longlisted for the Orwell Prize; her second, First Lady, was shortlisted for the Plutarch Prize. Her third book, A Woman of No Importance, was a NYT bestseller and won the Plutarch Prize for Biography. Sonia writes for several newspapers and is a regular broadcaster in Britain and abroad. She lives in London.
Zing Tsjeng is executive editor of Vice Media UK, specialising in women's and LGBTQ+ rights, politics, culture and lifestyle. Zing is a documentary and podcast host, and author of the Forgotten Women book series (The Artists, The Leaders, The Scientists, The Writers), which tells the stories of women who shaped and were erased from our history.
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