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  • Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post! May 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric , trackback

    lucrezia borgia

    Barbie  is an American doll that has been marketed across the globe since 1959 and that was based on an earlier German ‘sexy’ doll Bild Lilli (another post, another day). Barbie was, of course, an instant success and continues to outsell all rivals – there is a Barbie doll purchased every three seconds somewhere in the world – and part of the key to her success has been the endless wardrobes that children (or infantilised adults) can change to their heart’s content. Themed Barbies are a regular occurence: Star Wars Barbies, James Bond Barbies, Moby Dick Barbies (ok I made that last one up…) This much is shared and very general knowledge. What is not so well known is that several historical Barbie dolls were issued, and also that Barbie enthusiasts (an interesting breed) adapted official models to explore some of the backwaters of antiquity, the middle ages and modernity: who needs a doctorate when you can put chains on a Roman slave Barbie? StrangeHistory has brought together here some of the best historical Barbies from an hour long google image search. There is something absolutely magical about Barbie’s vapid smile above the rich evocative dress of a mothballed era. Let’s start with my favourite at the head of this post: Barbie as Lucrezia Borgia, a ruthless, sensual, intelligent Renaissance woman, who would have spent afternoons planning new and exciting ways to kill anyone who dared play with her.

    greek goddess barbie

    Next we have an ancient Greek Barbie, actually ‘the Goddess of Wisdom’ model; it is wonderful how Barbie’s makers constantly tried to valorise Barbie’s intellect. I see Venus not Athena though in those lips…

    third reich barbie

    Next comes Third Reich Barbie (well actually it is Bavarian Barbie). Connosieurs will be interested to know that there is also a neo-nazi barbie: Beach has even run into an illustrated page including the memorable line ‘I don’t endorse Nazis, nor do I endorse Barbies‘.

    viking barbie

    Staying with the Aryans here is Viking Barbie.

    prehistoric barbie

    This is the only shot I’ve found of prehistoric Barbie: did she hunt or gather and more importantly did she take part in the secondary products revolution?

    da vinci barbie

    This is Leonardo Barbie: note Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile (ahem).

    victorian barbie

    Victorian Barbie (with Cedric the bear) looking like an extra in a bad production of Peter Pan.

    pirate barbie

    Pirate Barbie, though I fear that this is taken from a movie franchise.

    cleopatra barbie

    Cleopatra Barbie, one of the most valuable of all the Barbies… Was Ken her brother? Yuk!


    Medieval Barbie: the fourth estate with inadequate child-bearing hips and a very silly hairstyle.

    celtic barbie

    Celtic Barbie or ‘Bard Barbie’ as she was called on the box: presumably getting ready to bring Ken to the wicker man.

    king arthur and guinevere barbie

    Then, on the subject of Ken, here is an Arthur (!!!!) and Guinevere set.

    henry viii and his wives

    A very witty remake of Henry VIII and his unlucky wives: detachable heads anyone?

    women priest barbie

    And for modern times woman priest Barbie: in commemoration of those brave and generally unBarbie looking women in the Anglican/Episcopalian church in the 1990s.

    cowboy barbie

    Cowboy Barbie, wrestling steers to the ground.

    obese barbie

    malibu barbie

    Though not strictly historical, I also like couch potato Barbie and DUI Barbie.

    Other ancient, medieval or modern Barbies: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    I’ve left non-white Barbies out of this, mainly because the ethnic versions look too convincing and spoil the dreadful effect of Barbie playing at history: in other words they make for credible tableaux. Oh and here is my top twelve I-wish historical Barbies should anyone have the time and resources

    1) Commissar Barbie (USSR under Stalin)

    2) Kibbutz Barbie (c. 1920)

    3) Shaman Barbie (Arctic Circle 400 BC)

    4) Bearded Woman Barbie (Victorian Freak Show)

    5) Barbarian Barbie (fifth century, rancid butter in hair)

    6) Late Antique Barbie (Christian, virgin, occasional miracles)

    7) 1968 Protest Barbie

    8) Byzantine Barbie

    9) Loose Barbie (Whitechapel prostitute, 1880s)

    10) Vangarian Guard Barbie

    11) Tea Party Barbie (US c. 2012)

    12) Witch Suspect Barbie (East Anglia. c. 1600: Ken as witch-hunter general?)

    14 Mar 2014: Southern Man writes in with Burka Barbie. Loved the image and here is the Snopes link.

    isis barbie


    30 April 2014: TB writs in.

    …a delicious subject.
    Something similar has been done with some ActionMan reboots, but always without any sense of Irony.And I say that rather cautiously, as one of the leading maker of 1/6th historical figures.
    There’s always Serial Killer Barbie, attached.
    And the charming Devotional pic.
    saintbarbie tumblr_lbbyj3qdww1qdosm7o1_500
    25 June 2015: Southern Man writes in with a doll decapitation site. Here is a sample:
    marie antoinette
    25 Feb 2017: Jen writes in pointing out that there is an egyptologist Barbie and an officially sanctioned paleontologist Barbie!
    Note no ‘historian’ or Fortean Barbie: can anyone help?
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