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The Fieldworker — Leicestershire Fieldworkers

The Fieldworker is the newsletter produced by the Leicestershire Fieldworkers. Download the latest issue hear.

The Fieldworker — Leicestershire Fieldworkers
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So on Tuesday Alex’s bubble burst…

Last Tuesday my sons school phoned to tell us that he was a Covid contact and his bubble would be isolating for the next ten days. This means homeschool, excited little boy and limited work for myself. His favourite game at the moment is a space flight simulator and he is trying to drive a rover on Mars. Guess who has to fly the rocket and land on Mars safely. Guess who gets told off every time his precious rover breaks up in orbit.

Now I am not a contact unless Alex develops symptoms so I can still go to work but I am taking this weekend off to catch up on some reading and some journals.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

I am a very social person and love to read, write, discuss and be a member of clubs and societies. I am a proud member of the Historical Association and of the Prehistoric Society. These mean a lot to me and I enjoy learning more about my profession and my topic. Keeping up with my subject also means reading older books about history and the art of doing history as well as looking forwards to new books. Harry Sidebottom is a good friend who is a brilliant writer. I am looking forwards to his new book, The Burning Road, that has its launch next month. If you would like to go, book launches are always fun events. Tickets are available at Topping Books I believe there will be drinks and nibbles!

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A great and significant date… The Battle of Marston Moor (1642)

One of the greatest assets of a general is a reputation for invincibility. If you have it you are playing down hill and if you are against it you have a big battle to fight. It was today in 1642 the Prince Rupert rode onto the field with his reputation and his poodle and left with only his poodle.

In 1642 the civil war was going badly for the royalist forces in the North. Royalist forces had been pushed back and then besieged in the city of York, the capital of the north. A relief force of Royalist cavalry evaded the parliamentary army and linked up with the royalist foot and then turned to bring the parliamentarians to battle. Facing a royalist army under Marquess of Newcastle and Prince Rupert was an allied force of Scots and Parliamentary forces under Fairfax and Manchester. Exhausted but willing to follow Rupert anywhere his soldiers prepared for battle but being late in the day Rupert was convinced the battle would be delayed. He went to dine and Newcastle retired to smoke so both were taken by surprise as the Parliamentarians started to advance at 7pm. Whatever you think of Rupert he was a very brave man and was able to engage the Parliamentarians and contested the field for several hours before being forced to retire. This was a side show because it was the foot who inflicted serious casualties on the Royalists and won the day. The day was won meaning that the Royalists lost their baggage and their artillery. The battle that should have buttressed the Kings holding in the north led to their unwraveling and after the surrender of York the North was lost to the King.

Prince Rupert lost his reputation but the Iron Sides under Cromwell gained status and renown that would soon become legendary. The loss of the North was a problem of long term significance. Much of the population and wealth lay in the south but the North had important trading ports with the continent which were now lost to the King. By winning and the

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Who were the Anglo-Saxons? — Notes from the U.K.

Until recently, if you asked who the Anglo-Saxons were the answer would’ve been that they were people from two northern European tribes who invaded England during the fifth and sixth centuries and then put down roots and stayed. They pushed the Britons (mostly Celts who’d been Romanized) to the corners of the island and formed […]

Who were the Anglo-Saxons? — Notes from the U.K.
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A lovely day at a lovely school… Kingsthorne

Today I went to one of my favourite schools to do a new workshop. We did the Great Fire of London, an exciting workshop for KS1. Working with extremely young children is one of those fun things in life. They are enthusiastic, over excited and often unable to keep to the point. Whilst we were dramatically exploring 17th century London one little boy put up his hand to tell me that his nanny was in heaven.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

During the last week or so I have been researching the Great Fire of London and trying to think of ways to explain and immerse the children in the 17th century. Obviously there are many things in history that we just can not tell children about. Which is right and proper until they are adults and they ask you why you left out all the good bits when they were at school! And some things can be hidden whilst others are too wonderful not to be shared. One of our activities was making wattle and daub. We made the hurdle and then used airdrying clay to represent daub. “Of course, children, they did not really use air drying clay… they used PIG POO!”

On a serious note the Great Fire of London is one of those really terrible disasters. It was so awful at the time that the French King was moved to offer to send food and aide to London. As I read the accounts from the time I reflect that the only comparable description that I have heard is the description of the Coventry Blitz by a man who watched it from Baginton. I remember one person saying that they were in a train and saw the sky red with fire. He asked the guard what it was and the Guard replied that it was Coventry. At its height the Great Fire of London could be seen from Oxford.

London had endured fires before and it struck me that it was strange that they dealt with this one so badly. The Mayor gave no leadership and left the city on the first day, the people ran keen to protect their own property rather than deal with the fire and so many laws and ordinances had been ignored and not enforced which made this fire trap, a fire trap with fire traps inside it. The Romans knew the importance of preventing fire and forbade thatch, smithing and other fire related professions in their cities as did Charles II who repeatedly passed laws and comment on the dangerous nature of the slums of the city of London. The reasons for this are that Royal authority was suspect after the Civil Wars. The city of London had been an important Parliamentary stronghold and the magistrates were old enough to have served in the war against Charles father. It is probable that they were not going to be told what to do by this jumped up poodle keeper. It is probable that this was the reason the Mayor rejected the help of James soldiers. The idea of Royalist soldiers marching through Parliamentary London was incredibly dangerous. Second the slums of London were growing very quickly and needed cheap materials to build. There was no central planning and the medieval city expanded upwards creating tenements that met over the street and put dangerous industries in the centre of a tinderbox dry city.

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The ECR Editorial Internship — History Journal

HANNAH PARKER and LAURA DOAK History: The Journal of the Historical Association is currently looking for a new ECR Editorial Intern to maintain this site and develop the journal’s online presence. Here, Hannah Parker (intern for 2019-2020) and Laura Doak (current intern) discuss their time with History. If you are an early career historian and […]

The ECR Editorial Internship — History Journal
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A fantastic day in a lovely school

My job is history and this involves reading, writing and teaching. Yesterday I had a brilliant day in a school in Birmingham. James Brindley school is a trust that provides education to none mainstream children. These are children who suffer from crippling anxiety, issues around food or are in prison. As I have said in my introduction this is an issue that is very close to my heart and as a dyslexic I can emphasise with all those children who struggle to read or are anxious about their spelling.

I taught two very interesting groups of children. The first group did not say a word for the first hour. I rolled through the material giving plenty of opportunity for them to interact and suddenly after an hour BANG! they opened up. They had an hour to work out that I wasn’t horrible and was doing something interesting and then it was like working with university students.

The second group did not need any warming up. They were hot from the start and very excited about everything and very keen to give their opinions. Again very exciting with lots of questions including “Why are you dressed like that?” Well its because I am teaching Stone Age today.

A lovely school that I would love to go back to in the future.

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10 Spectacular Sites to Visit in Suffolk — The Historic England Blog

Home to the most easterly point in England, Lowestoft Ness, the county of Suffolk is the first place in the country to see the sun rise each morning.

10 Spectacular Sites to Visit in Suffolk — The Historic England Blog
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henry HenryVIII History on this day

A very special birthday

Today marks the birthday of one of the most influential men in history, influential beyond all expectations and potential.  This man was the second son in a precarious dynasty that came to power after a long and wasteful period of dynastic struggle. In this turmoil the royal families had been largely destroyed allowing this man’s father, whose family was far from legitimate, to seize the crown from under a hawthorn bush at Bosworth.  The throne was precarious, the country exhausted and certainly not a first rate power.  I am of course talking about Henry VIII.  

The second son of Henry VII was not expected to ascend to the throne and his upbringing was second rate to that of his brother, Arthur, who was groomed to be the perfect Medieval monarch.  Brought up in the household Henry was not a perfect Medieval king and this was probably for the good because during his reign Europe moved from the late Middle Ages towards the early modern period.  He was clever, romantic and believed in dangerous notions such as “love” and actually believed in his religion.   It was the idea that he should love his wife that led to his many divorces and his actual and real belief in Christianity that compelled him to want a proper divorce rather than, as the Pope suggested, he put Catherine away quietly.  To a greater or lesser extent he successfully navigated the turmoil’s of the age which included war, religious revolution and the brand new concept of inflation!  During his reign the seeds sown in his fathers reign of the decline of feudal system, the growth of the power of merchants and professionals and the decline and dissolution of the monasteries came to pass. 

Monastic lands enabled the creation of a new class of landowners, a vast influx of money to the crown and the sudden loss to society of the safety net of monastic charity.   The crown responded to this crisis with new thinking.  Thomas Cromwell brought the philosophy of the Commonwealth men to the nations problems and supplanted the monasteries with the Crown.  Many of the modern public schools and remaining Grammar schools own their existence to the Merry Monarch.  Cromwell established hospitals, schools and other benefits long before the idea of the welfare state became the core of Labours 1940s revolution.  Cromwell transformed the finances of the crown to such an extent that he believed that the Crown would not need to tax the nation for three hundred years.  The most shocking fact I know about Henry VIII is that he spent this money in ten years.   Henry VIII transformed England from a medieval backwater into a pre-modern state.  Processes set in action in this strange and passionate mans life led to the Church of England that has spread across the globe, Parliamentary democracy, the idea that the King should rule in Parliament and after a successor failed to learn this lesson and lost his life defending the Devine Right of Kings we have the modern state.  Without Henry we would not have had the American Revolution we would have had a very different world but the world that Henry set in motion started all those years ago with the birth of a second son to a unsecure monarch in a second rate nation just off the coast of Europe.

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My First Stone Age Flint Find

Right so I am a professional Historian. I lecture, I write and I research but the one thing that I have never done that I’ve always wanted to do is to find a flint tool from the Stone Age. One of the topics I teach workshops on in schools is Stone Age and I have a lovely collection of tools that have been donated and bought but they were not quite the same. What is worse is that children ask me where they can find flint tools and I tell them that they can find them field walking, that there are plenty of archaeological societies they can join that will help them.

This year I decided to get serious about finding my own flint tools so I got some books, joined some Facebook groups and spoke to some experts. I decided that my best luck would be in Cornwall. First I knew some farmers so getting permission to walk their fields would not be a problem and second Cornwall does not have natural flint deposits so any flint that you find there has been bought in. Third, I had stalked… not stalked a Facebook friend who lived near my parents who had found some amazing flints and no I wasn’t green with envy.

Off I went, finishing work on the Friday and driving six hours to South West Cornwall. The next day I was walking up and down fields staring at the ground. By lunch time I was in despair. I was pretty sure I was the only person in the world who would never find a flint tool despite doing hours of research. Despite going to a flint rich environment where Stone Age people not only lived but put up monuments they could not be bothered to leave flint tools for me. Professional failure stared me in the face, I would have to retrain as an accountant.

Then there it was. A piece of flint. Not a sliver or a tool but a lump and because it was flint I picked it up and knew instantly what it was. I have another example in my collection. It was a core. Cores are the flint that is left after you make a blade. I rubbed the dirt off the sides and saw the distinctive shape of the microliths that had been knapped off it sometime in the Mesolithic Stone Age. Sometime between 15,000 years ago and 5,000 years ago somebody had used this to create microliths. Rather than carry around a whole knife kit they had one core that they knapped when they needed a knife and threw it away when they had used it. I am a very romantic person and I felt that vertigo of time and a connection to someone who was very possibly one of my ancestors. That day I found two mircoliths and another core. I was excited to say the least and my imposter anxiety was buried in a nice deep grave.

The next day I went out again and was walking in a field just behind St Leven church. As a shuffled along in my vivo barefoot I heard a voice say, “Hello!” I turned and returned the greeting which was followed by the question, “Can I ask… what are you doing?” It was a walker and his wife. She was curious but he had clearly come to the conclusion I was a nutter. I pulled myself together, I was walking in a field staring at the ground in the hot sun wearing smart clothes and expensive boots. “Ah! yes Im a historian and I’m looking for flint…”