Castor, Helen 1968–
Castor, Helen 1968–
(Helen R. Castor)
PERSONAL: Born 1968; married; children: son. Education: Attended Cambridge University; holds a doctorate degree.
CAREER: Historian, writer, and educator. Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, fellow in history. Previously worked as research fellow, Jesus College, Cambridge University.
Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2004, revised version published as Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph during England's Tumultuous Civil War, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Historian Helen Castor devoted more than a decade to her work on the Paston letters, a collection of correspondence between members of the English, upper-class fifteenth-century Paston family. There are over 1,000 letters in the collection that extend over three different generations of the family. The letters give a clear view of life during the War of the Roses, an intermittent civil war over the throne that occurred in England from 1455 to 1485. Castor compiled these documents into Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century, a book that attempts to reconstruct the life and times of the Paston family.
Critics of Castor's work remarked upon the book's detailed historical accuracy and clear, straightforward exposition. A Contemporary Review contributor noted that "this well constructed book is a timely antidote" to the common and often skewed perception of medieval life. The same contributor went on to call the book "a valuable portrait of a vanished world." A.J. Pollard, writing in History Today, also felt positively about Blood and Roses, stating that Castor "cleverly weaves explanation of contemporary social structure, legal procedures, marital customs, and other aspects of fifteenth-century life into the story." Pollard added that Castor "makes just the right level of reference to and exposition of the unfolding political context" in order to better frame the circumstances of the Pastons. Moreover, London Review of Books contributor Helen Cooper suggested that the author "is always ready to explain and inform, but she does it in a way that assumes her readers lack specialist knowledge rather than intelligence." Cooper then observed that the book "demonstrates how serious history can now achieve a generous market beyond the academy, without compromising its standards or its priorities."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Review, March, 2005, review of Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century, p. 186.
English Historical Review, November, 2001, S.J. Gunn, review of The King, the Crown, and the Duchy of Lancaster: Public Authority and Private Power, 1399–1461, p. 1255.
Guardian (London, England), October 23, 2004, James Buchan, "Distant Voices," review of Blood and Roses.
History Today, November, 2004, A.J. Pollard, review of Blood and Roses, p. 65.
London Review of Books, August 4, 2005, Helen Cooper, "Family Fortunes," review of Blood and Roses.
Faber & Faber Web site, http://www.faber.co.uk/ (March 16, 2006), brief biography of Helen Castor.