The era I am setting my story in is vaguely 70s and vaguely Oxbridge, and my main character is a post PHD researcher stuck in a small museum similar to the Pitt Rivers, doing grunt work and going through that awful “so what now” grey dirge that happens post education in your mid 20s.
There's a discovery of 112 letters set in a psuedo medieval land, a one sided conversation where this woman's life is explained from childhood to being a grandmother via correspondence. My character specialises in the language of the era, and fights to read and translate them first.
Since I went to an art school which had no fresher shenanigans or even a NUS bar, even modern uni/college rituals and proper academia are an archaic mystery to me, and Oxbridge life in the 70s even more so.
So, my questions:
- Exactly how important would a bunch of letters be to the western historical world in the 70s? Would they be a find worthy of publication and celebration, with their own space at the Ashmolean or even the British Museum, or would they be remarked upon with barely a whisper? I'm thinking they would be an older version of Nellie Last's letters, if that makes any sense. Literally just letters, explaining house moving and the birth of her children and how her foreign husband is odd, not a huge saga about dragon slaying or heroic adventures.
- How sexist/racist was that academic environment back then? Eugenics was still a thing and women were more scarce both in teaching and the student body in Oxbridge (to the point of separate colleges, even) but first or even third hand experiences of the time there would help me immensely.
- I'm aware the 70s in academia went through a huge counter culture movement and was an important proponent in marches and protests, but how much did Oxbridge take part?
- Public school education and boarding schools: where would a daughter of a publisher specialising in children's books and an illustrator go to school? Her parents would make sure she had the “best start” in life, but I'm wondering what exactly her upper middle class life would allow education wise. Would a hippy boarding school like Bedales be good enough for Oxbridge in the 70s? Would she have gone to Cheltenham Ladies' College instead?
- If anyone has any TV shows, books or films that even give a whiff of this specific bubble I would appreciate it. Other than “The Young Ones, I guess” my list is kind of short right now.