Eff the Tudors: Gay Pirates and Students with Scurvy

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In light of the events of summer 2020, when George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed caught the attention of the world, Ben Pollard and Jenny Recaldin decided to launch their podcast, Eff the Tudors, to share untold histories of marginalised groups.

Their series focuses specifically on BAME, LGBTQ+, and women’s histories, upon reflection that the history they learned at school neglected these kinds of voices.

I completely love the premise of this podcast, as a mixed-race woman studying history, who is often found complaining about how Eurocentric and male-dominated the curriculum is.

I listened to the first episode, ‘Gay Pirates and Students with Scurvy’. The title caught my attention as I am currently specialising in anarchy in the Caribbean, which includes the history of pirates in the Caribbean, but sadly not any stories of bisexual pirates. Perhaps I’ll bring up the story of Anne Bonny in my next seminar and see if any of the others have heard of her!

The podcast starts off very light-hearted as Ben and Jenny discuss what they’ve been watching on the TV. Jenny grabbed my attention with her claim that Gilmore Girls is the best show ever made; as a childhood favourite of mine, this made me smile.

Then after about fifteen minutes, Ben goes on to discuss the tragedy that is the case of Stephen Lawrence. He goes into quite a bit of detail so this would make an important listen for anyone looking to know more about what happened to Stephen and how his friend Dwayne Brooks was treated following his murder.

As a South East Londoner, I have heard much about the case of Stephen Lawrence growing up from my parents and grandparents. But still, the podcast was informative on a few things I had missed.

I was unaware that Nelson Mandela was involved in bringing justice to the Lawrence family. Mandela conducted an interview with the press following meeting the Lawrence’s. This interview helped to hold the police to account and increased public attention on the case, pressuring the investigation to go on further.

The second part of the podcast is “a fun gay history” of 18th-century pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Reid, as picked by Jenny. They were both illegitimate children who dressed as boys in their youth. And they continued to dress as men throughout their adult lives to protect themselves from discrimination while they were pirates. Historians dispute the extent to which this is mythologised.

Anne was disowned by her father and divorced her first husband to marry John Rackham (Calico Jack), later joining his crew. She reportedly stabbed every crew member that found out she was a woman.

When she met Mary Reid, she seduced her thinking she was a man. They both went on to sleep with John and the rest of the crew.

One night the crew were ambushed, and all the men were hanged for their crimes. The two women ‘plead their bellies’, and Anne was actually pregnant. Anne was released with no ship and no crew. All histories of Anne Bonney after 1720 are unconfirmed.

The podcast is currently on its second season. A couple of the other episodes that caught my eye are ‘Transgender Spies and Kings with Secrets’ and ‘Genderfluid Abolitionists and Bisexual Communist Affairs’.

Do check out the podcast to learn about some interesting and important unspoken histories over the Easter break.

Ben and Jenny are open to suggestions for topics for the podcast. So, feel free to email them at effthetudors@gmail.com 

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