Deborah Youngs has been deputy head of the College of Arts & Humanities since 2011. She takes a leading role in developing the College’s learning & teaching strategy, and is a member of its executive group. Her main responsibility is the student experience, and this has brought some exciting challenges, as well as opportunities to work with many different people across the university.
She combines these roles with her passion for historical research. A medieval historian by training, she has always been fascinated in individuals and their everyday lives. On coming to Swansea in 1998 she began working on the medieval life course, particularly the intersections between age and gender in the formation of a person’s identity. A particular focus has been adulthood and the cultural construction of middle age. She also has a long-term interest in the history of women in medieval Wales, and is currently writing a book on their roles and aspirations. She believes that too little is known of Welsh women in the past, and this was one of the reasons she organised the first Wikipedia editathon at the university in January 2015, which focused on addressing the gender gap. This day-long event led to several new articles written on women of Wales, Ireland and England.
Studying women’s history has been a rewarding experience, and one that means working with several brilliant scholars. Deborah is currently the Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded project which explores the ways women accessed the legal systems of Britain and Ireland, 1100-1750. Over the next four years, the project team will consider the challenges women faced in a legal system created, administered and determined by men. Yet it will also argue that this did not prevent numerous women from petitioning the courts and demonstrating legal knowledge. She is looking forward to collaborating with researchers at the universities of Swansea, Cardiff and Glasgow in developing this research, and seeing where they can take it next.