Random ramblings about my life, interests and anything else which takes my fancy.
Friday, 5 November 2010
In Which There is an Historian
Last night I went to Bath again, this time it was to see Michael Wood, who was there to talk about his recent TV series and the book which accompanies it,'The Story of England'
But before I got to that part of the evening I had time for a quick visit to Mr B's bookshop which is a very nice bookshop (with free coffee & comfy chairs upstairs, which I didn't have time to enjoy this time round) and a wall papered with pages from Tintin, which I rather enjoyed.
I then had to spend a couple of hours on a work related course, and had just time to grab some mediocre chinese food (and all-you-can-eat buffet is your friend when you only have 20 minutes in which to eat) before heading to St Michael's church, where Mr Wood's event was taking place.
I have to thank Cheryl again, who not only spotted that this event (and Monday's, with Iain M Bnks) was on, but also booked the tickets and got to the church first and saved me a seat.
Mr. Wood was talking about The Story of England, and it was fascinating. The premise is that he set out to look at the history of England (and he was careful to note that it was just England, not Britain) by looking at a single town.
The one he picked is Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was picked because it is (geographically) central, and broadly on the border between the part of England which was under Danelaw, and that part which was Anglo-Saxon , but mainly because it has excellent written records - one half of the village was bought by Merton College, Oxford, so there are 750 years worth of written records. The parish is made up of 2 distinct villages - Kibworth Beauchamp (the posh bit) and Kibworth Harcourt (the poor bit)
The aim was to look at the history and development of the villages from the perspective of the community - bottom-up, not top-down, history.
The two halves of the parish are very different - they have different entrances to the church, and the Vctorian rector recorded that when a sewage system was being mooted, the villages wanted separate systems, so thast the effluvia from Kibworth Beauchamp was not contaminated by that of Kibworth Harcourt.... (and in case you think tht's a one off, Michael recalled hearing a discussion in a cambridgeshire village, when it was proposed that 2 neighbouring parishes should be combined, due to declining congregations. One parishioner, entirely seriously, and wholly outraged , exclamed "We are not almagamating with them. They were Parliamentarians!" It's understandable, I suppose. After all, its only 350 years since the civil war...
In Kibworth, the social divisions certainly went back as far as Domesday book (there were fewer slaves and villeins in Kinworth Beauchamp than in Kibworth Harcourt) and possibly longer - Michael had a theory that it may do, and that the names of the fields were anglo-saxon in one area, and celtic in another.
The project not only involved looking at the history of the community, but also involving the community in the research - they dug 55 test pits all over the parish, (including one in the pub car park where they found a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon bone comb)
The village lost 2/3 of its population in the Black Death. The quality of the records mean that it is possible to trace 15 generations of peasant families.
The series (and book) go right up to the present day. I have not yet seen all of the episodes but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, and to reading the book.
After his talk, Michael signed books, and was very friendly and chatty.