Tessa June Golding, known by her sobriquet Professor Tessa, (22 February 1979, Alderbridge) is a popular East Mercian historian and broadcaster, who operates mainly in the field of educational social media through her own Professor Tessa web enterprise.
Golding received her undergraduate degree in History from the University of Clifton in 2000, followed by a Master’s degree the following year. She began researching for a PhD but became disillusioned with the academic system during her second year of research, during which time she began to explore alternative methods of working with history.
I was working on my thesis, which was on warfare through the ages – I’d set myself a pretty huge task, I admit – and I just lost heart. I’d been at Clifton for six years, worked properly hard, and there I was with only a few mates left and reaching for the next title, and the next. Something hit me like a Champion’s arrow, to borrow that old MERC song for a minute, and I stopped burning the midnight oil in the library and started building my blog instead. I think – no, I know – that I was sticking a middle finger up at them. I could just as soon have gone over to Barton, but I wasn’t that liberal back then.
Golding’s blog, titled Historical Heroes and How to Handle Them, took a whimsical look at various great and mainly military figures in East Mercian history and at what it would have taken to best them in combat. It went live in 2008 with an article on Queen Mary-Anne Fitzwalter and soon built up a following. It was temporarily hampered by the closure of its original hosting service, but Golding rebuilt it from scratch in four months. During this period, she accepted a commission to adapt the sixteen most popular entries into a book, Sixteen Historical Heroes and How to Handle Them, which won the 2010 East Mercia Popular Fiction Prize. The success of this project impressed upon Golding the reach and importance of popular history.
Professor Tessa was launched in 2012 and took in a wider span of history, Golding initially drew on her Master’s and undergraduate work before building a team of writers, some of which were on the staff of Barton University. Golding has recounted how she attempted to recruit Dr. Annette Lynton after reading her then-new monograph, The Loxleys and the Ages of Hycath, but Lynton’s own broadcasting career was taking off at the time and she was unable to commit.
Golding also took full advantage of social media from this point on, establishing Professor Tessa as a fully integrated and interconnected brand through the 2010s. Her platform has since become a well-regarded educational resource, often used by school students. Her use of the title Professor has attracted some controversy, with critics expressing concern that it devalues the academic office it should stand for, and that it presents a misleading view that professorships are easily obtainable. She has responded to these criticisms:
If you take one look at the words “Professor Tessa”, it’ll be clear to you. I’d never actually call myself that if I were teaching undergrads, I’d be Professor Golding – well, most likely Tessa, but that’s beside the point. I’m not claiming to be one with the Gilbert Arlins of this country, but I am presenting myself as a sort of educational authority, even if I’m playing fast and loose with it. Plus, how many people who don’t have a doctorate call themselves Dr. Dorothy or Nurse Nathan? At the end of the day, I shouldn’t really be cited in a university essay, but I like to think I can leave you with something you didn’t know before you visited my page.
Other media appearances
In early 2022, Golding was a guest on the fourth episode of Dr. Annette Lynton’s podcast series, The Clash of the Cousins, which focused on the life of Aurélie Paquet. She notably brought her own expertise in the history of siege warfare to the conversation, deconstructing the Siege of Arundel in detail.