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The History Press blog

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    No matter where you are in Spalding or the surrounding area you are never far away from sites of historical interest and it is therefore no wonder that there is such a wealth of paranormal activity.

    The grandest, most picturesque historical site, Ayscoughfee Hall Museum, was home to many generations of the Johnson family, including Maurice Johnson (II) founder of Spalding Gentlemen’s society. Local folklore told of a ghostly white lady walking the grounds and, following many years of access to paranormal investigators being denied, the building was finally investigated on Friday 17 September 2010 by a local paranormal team. During the investigation the activity, experiences and audio recordings taken suggested the presence of several resident spirits and it would therefore seem that there is much more to Ascoughfee Hall than the mere speculated presence of a white lady.

    Just a stones throw from Ayscoughfee is Bridge Street, where renovation works inside shops and out on the street have uncovered bodies of Benedictine monks – some falling outside what would have been the consecrated ground surrounding the priory in the 13th century. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that ghostly monks have been seen walking in this area and also in the former priory buildings close by, the remains of which still exist today.

    On nearby High Street is Cley Hall Hotel – a historic former family home dating back to the 18th Century where a builder had a chilling experience whilst working alone in the front lounge, when he saw the ghostly apparition of a man in period clothing appear in the room next to him.

    In Spalding town centre and the surrounding area are many locations such as pubs, restaurants and shops with ghostly stories to tell. One hotel in Spalding market place has had a lot of activity reported, by staff and guests alike. The inexplicable goings on include a phantom maid that likes to look after her guests in the Honeymoon Suite by running them a bath –and many guests that have stayed in that room have also reported waking up with a tray on the end of their bed. Other hotels and pubs in surrounding areas such as Surfleet and Holbeach have reported the ghostly sounds and sightings of playful children – running, playing and even singing. In one hotel they also like to move objects, leave hand prints on the mirrors and mess up the freshly made beds. Many of the haunted locations in and around Spalding have now been investigated by a paranormal team and the investigations have proved quite enlightening in finding out the identities of the spirit entities responsible for all the chaos and capturing evidence.

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  • 09/14/12--08:22: The Year of the Ripper
  • Capitalism is in crisis. Riots sweep through London and protestors occupy famous public spaces. An Old Etonian Prime Minster struggles to steer the country through an economic depression while vast sums are spent for the Jubilee celebrations of an elderly queen. There are concerns about crime and rising immigration. The Metropolitan Police is under pressure, morale is low and a Commissioner has been forced to resign. Revolution is in the air.

    We could be talking about recent history – but this description also applies to the late 19th century. It was a time when Britain effectively ruled the globe, economically, politically and culturally. At its heart was London, the symbolic centre of the world. And then in 1888 the capital was shaken by a series of horrific murders unlike anything it had experienced before. In the space of three months Jack the Ripper systematically butchered five women in the notorious ‘East End’ before vanishing mysteriously into the night. The newspapers called it the ‘Autumn of Terror’ and for once they were not exaggerating. Even in the wealthy West End, people locked their doors for fear that the Ripper could strike anywhere, anytime. It seemed as if this psychotic killer was tearing up the past to make way for a new, darker future.


    At the same time, life went on as normal. Men, women and children ate, drank, worked and played. The ‘Year of the Ripper’ saw the births of T.S. Eliot, T.E. Lawrence and John Logie Baird and the deaths of Edward Lear and Matthew Arnold. And tragically there were other homicide victims less famous than Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. By the end of 1888 the Metropolitan Police would count a total of 28 murders and 94 manslaughters, including a 71 year-old retired Major shot dead by his son, an unidentified torso found dead in the foundations of New Scotland Yard, a Russian immigrant slaughtered by her husband, a dressmaker stabbed and battered to death in her own home and a two year-old boy decapitated by his mentally ill mother.

    Time passed and the citizens of London quickly overcame their fear of the Ripper. They even felt able to joke about him as the ultimate bogey man. Today, 124 years later, there remains only curiosity about the true identity of the man (or woman) who turned real life into the stuff of nightmares.

    1888: London Murders in the Year of the Ripper is available from

    Don’t forget to check out our Ripper inspired Twitter project next year, marking the 125th Anniversary of the Cononical Five murders –@WChapelRealTime

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    Next to the modern concept that ninjutsu (arts of the ninja) is a specific form of martial art, the ninja versus samurai myth is the second most popular misconception concerning the Japanese spy-commando’s known as the shinobi. Throughout popular thought and modern media, the idea that the ninja formed as a counter culture to the samurai has taken root, not only in Japan but also the rest of the world. The issue at hand here is that this is not only an unfounded and recent construction but that it is also an outright mistake.


    The initial step to understand is that the term ninja is a term for a position and is not representative of a social status nor does it have connotations of social placement. A ninja is a man undertaking a job and who is trained in a particular set of skills, his social rank does not come into play and applicants ofninjutsu can be taken from any level. This being said, one has to remember that the majority of the Japanese population were not samurai and large sections of armies were in fact taken from the peasant class to formAshigaru, or foot soldiers. This means that social status was not a factor in training the ninja and that any man could be taken from any social class and trained, dependent on circumstance and requirements. Therefore, the primary unknown factor in the search for the ninja is that an unknown number came from both Ashigaru and samurai class – and all that can be said is that ninja came from both classes. Remembering that social movement was considerably easier in the Sengoku Period (15th and 16th centuries) it was nottoo difficult for a peasant to achieve status as a mercenary and we must not become trapped in the modern connotations that arise with the term “peasant”. Vast swaths of armies and fighters were based in the peasant class and come under the banner of foot soldiers; however, some of these men were promoted and did in fact help shape Japanese history. Further to this, some ninjutsulines were contained within families and passed down through the bloodline or to a relevant candidate in the family, but family connection was not a requirement for shinobi training as is commonly believed.

    To put this in context, samurai martial arts and skills were passed down through the clan and to those attached to the family who would also be trained in these arts, but what is needed to be understood is that ninjutsu is one of those samurai arts and was transmitted through a family but not always to those connected by blood. This is more so with ninjutsu asninjutsu requires a special type of person and therefore recruitment was mainly based on ability. It is not uncommon for manuals or documents to tell that certain shinobi would take people of worth in an army and proceed to train them in the arts of theninja, sometimes with the help of Iga no mono (specialised ninja from the region of Iga, famous for their ninja).

    Ninja documentation and historical evidence for the fact that there was no divide between the ninja and the samurai comes in many forms and establishes without doubt that during the Sengoku and Edo Periods, the ninja were considered as fundamental sections of an army and were indeed not only required elements of medieval life but were also government employees. Remembering that the administration of Japan was undertaken by the samuraiclass we see how samurai trained in the arts of the ninja or those who understand their use would command and govern their official but hidden ninjaagents and that not only is the myth of the ninja versus the samurai, just that, a myth, but that it is also evident that initially, the term of ninja was not wholly a position of negativity.

    Ihara Yori Fumi was a samurai and was active in the early part of the 1700’s and was retained by the Fukui domain to teach the Gunpo arts or the military arts to the clan. Further to this, his job consisted of the position shinobi no mono shihai忍之者支配 or ‘ninja commander’ and his job was to orchestrate the shinobi of that domain and ensure that their system of spies was working correctly. His position as a shinobi and ninja commander illuminates the respect given to theninja arts from a military perspective and the need for individual provinces to undertake espionage on a serious level. In his manual he states that raiding groups should consist of ten shinobi and twenty five “fighting samurai” and that there are difficulties in leading and taking charge of “fighting samurai” when leading them on night raids.


    These difficulties are highlighted in Yoshimori’s ninjapoems and show that shinobiare needed to lead squads of men at night as they are trained in this matter, even that the Shoninki ninja manual states that ninja used to be known as Yato, or leaders in the night as they took command of samurai teams. This displays that not only didsamurai of the time bow to the command of a shinobi but that shinobi were considered to be required for this job and that shinobi were from the samurai class as part of asamurai attack squad. The ninja commander mentioned above, Ihara Yori Fumi continues to display theshinobi as the leader figure in the following quote from his manual:

    In peace times when you go to other provinces on missions you should take those of a lower [social] position and carry alternative rain coats, spare clothes and so on. You should reach for the appropriate contact and proper person. This is how you will be able to see and hear [what you need to]. Before you go to a place of importance you should leave your swords somewhere and you, as the master shouldexchange places with those below you (ge-nin). Or you may take on the form of a merchant, pilgrim or yamabushi mountain monk.

    Alongside obvious references to social class, his writings also contain more subtle clues to the position of a ninja as here he advises to ‘drop the employment of servants to aid in your disguise as a lower level traveller’, showing his higher status and the basic fact of the ownership of servants byshinobi agents (making them samurai). He continues….

    The above article is an extract from Antony’s new book “In Search of the Ninja”published by The History Press. To read more, you can order the book from For more information on the Ninja of Japan please visit Antony’s website

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    Truth is stranger than fiction, as the saying goes. But telling the two apart is not always easy, especially in a subject as fraught as the fall of Anne Boleyn.

    According to most biographies or other supposedly ‘factual’ accounts, with notable exceptions like George Bernard’s, Anne was falsely accused and destroyed by a conspiracy orchestrated by Thomas Cromwell. She and Cromwell are said to be at loggerheads for some reason, maybe a quarrel over the monasteries. And it is taken for granted that witnesses were tortured or threatened with torture to extract confessions.

    Cromwell is thus the arch villain of the Tudor court, a man whose perfidy and cruelty know no bounds; so surely the worthy, engaging hero of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies must be a fictional character.

    Well, maybe not, because when the Tudor archival records are examined, a somewhat different picture slowly emerges.

    Ambassador Chapuys does indeed say in one of his letters that Cromwell brought about the whole affair; but in the same letter, the same sentence in fact, he makes it clear that Cromwell was acting under orders given by Henry on or about the 18th of April, 1536. Apart from a clumsy mistranslation (Chapuys wrote in French), there is no hint of anything conspiratorial.

    Then this row over the monasteries comes from an account of Anne’s life written 25 years later by a fellow called Alexander Alesius for Queen Elizabeth. For reasons not entirely clear, Alesius has a gripe against Cromwell, and he also makes silly mistakes in his narrative. By contrast, all evidence around 1535–6 has Cromwell reforming the monasteries and the church along evangelical lines, with Anne supporting him. Relations between them were not always entirely harmonious – she once said she’d like to see his head off – but they were broadly on the same side in the Reformation.

    As for the torture, there is a story that Mark Smeaton, a court musician and alleged lover of the queen, had a knotted rope tied round his neck and tightened to make him confess. This work, commonly known as the Spanish Chronicle, is an account of Henry’s reign, also written in Elizabeth’s time (we think), and in parts it is comically inaccurate: one of its howlers is Cromwell, who died in 1540, investigating adultery charges against Catherine Howard, which did not come to light until the following year.

    More reliable is a contemporary, George Constantine, who heard that Smeaton had been racked, but admitted that ‘I could never know [this] of a truth’. So it was only a rumour, a point not always stressed in modern books.

    Too many ‘factual’ accounts, therefore, rely heavily on evidence dodgy at best. Hilary Mantel has left all this out and concentrated on the real facts: Henry is disenchanted with Anne and in love with Jane; Henry has resolved to make Jane his queen, and has directed Cromwell to arrange it, using Anne’s pre-contract with Henry Percy as the legal justification. This gives Cromwell little choice, and he has even less choice when ladies of the court start saying things about Anne’s liaisons with her gentlemen friends.

    So Bring up the Bodies, though officially classified as ‘fictional’, gives a more historically sound account than most ‘factual’ works. The imagination of the novelist is used not to invent facts, but to illumine them and breathe new life into them, especially when the details are uncertain, such as Smeaton’s examination. The result is a riveting story that has gripped and delighted thousands of readers. Which only proves that truth is not just stranger than fiction; it is also far more enthralling.

    John Schofield is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He holds a PhD in Reformation history, is an expect of Thomas Cromwell and is also the author of 'Cromwell to Cromwell' and 'The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell'.

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    Warwick Castle (c) Lynne Williams

    ‘Warwick Then & Now’ is an eclectic compilation illustrated with photos old and new and accompanying captions the changes that have taken place post-war, bringing the history of its buildings and streets up to date with reference to their historical timelines. Driven by a need to improve public health Warwick Borough Council made rapid and radical changes that swept away austerity and revolutionised peoples’ lives and lifestyles. Gone are the terraced houses where families lived in one or two tiny rooms, bathing once a week in a tin tub under the dim light of a gas mantle. Gone are the outside taps, lavatories and communal yards. Supermarkets and chains have replaced many individual and family owned businesses. The wholesale demolition of streets in the 1960s also witnessed the demolition of some listed buildings of historical significance before it was realised that these should be preserved as far as possible.


    Not all 1960s improvements were seen as a success, a notable example being the concrete and glass edifice housing the County Council offices, library and multi-storey car park. This was originally hailed as brave new architecture but has been the subject of much criticism since and was voted the third ugliest building in the United Kingdom in a television poll in 2006. The sleepy town of yesteryear is now a bustling hive of activity. Although customs such as the pageantry of the Assizes and Quarter Sessions has ceased, the annual visit of the Mop continues to thrill in the Market Place. Warwick’s famous medieval castle is a major tourist attraction which has put the town firmly on the map. Home to the earls of Warwick for many centuries, notably Richard Neville the Kingmaker, it was sold in 1978 to Madame Tussauds. Now under new management it puts on spectacular entertainments such as the firing of the giant trebuchet, a medieval siege machine, knights jousting and falconry displays. A thriving cafe society gives the town a continental ambience as it spills out on to the pavements from the many pubs, cafes and bistros. A weekly market selling a variety of goods from foodstuffs to household articles and clothing attracts shoppers and browsers alike. The Abercrombie Plan for Warwick advocated that its essential historical heritage be preserved and to date this has been done quite successfully by conserving the streets that formed the medieval cross; High Street/Jury Street, Northgate Street/Church Street and Castle Street.

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    It is a well-known fact that, during the Second World War, thousands of children were evacuated from industrial areas of Britain to the safety of the countryside. What is less well known is that in June 1940, just days before the Nazis occupied their island, 17,000 Guernsey residents were evacuated to the South Coast of England. This British evacuation included 5,000 school children who were evacuated with their teachers at very short notice. Many of the smaller children were told that they were going on a school trip, so as not to frighten them. Hundreds of young mothers travelled with the evacuated schools as ‘helpers’ and many carried their own infants in their arms. In addition, thousands of Guernsey men enlisted in the British Forces. The evacuees were hurriedly crammed into anything that could float such as mail boats, coal barges and cattle boats. One boat carried 300 evacuees, but was only licensed to carry 12. When the evacuees reached Weymouth, they were sent by train to industrial areas in northern England where enough accommodation could be provided for them. A few days later, on 30th June, the Nazis occupied Guernsey, and the evacuees realised that they might have to remain in England for some time. Local families came forward to take Guernsey children into their homes, but could not have foreseen that this relationship would last for five years.


    The evacuees were shocked by the sights and sounds of industrial towns with their smoking chimneys, terraced houses and factories. Bob Gill recalled ‘The people were friendly, but the clogs and shawls and mills were unfamiliar and different’. Ron Gould thought he was seeing things when, ‘a large cargo ship went steaming by, 40 miles from any sea. I soon found out that the Manchester Ship Canal was the reason for this!’ The Guernsey mothers made new lives for themselves in areas where the local accent was confusing, but for most, the welcome was outstanding. Eva Le Page recalled ‘I moved into an empty flat with my baby but I had nothing! Housewives gave me clothing for my baby, and blankets, crockery and furniture.’ Thousands of evacuees undertook war work in aircraft and ammunition factories, and children joined the Forces when they left school. Some Guernsey teachers obtained permission to re-establish their schools in England, wanting to keep the school together as a unit until the war ended. They experienced extreme financial hardship but were often helped by members of the local community. A Guernsey school in Cheshire was financially supported by kind Americans, including Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the American President.


    There was no postal service between Guernsey and England during the war, and the only contact was through 25 word Red Cross messages. It took up to six months to obtain a reply to a letter, and one evacuee recalled ‘The receipt of a Red Cross message was the best present ever, as it meant that my Dad in Guernsey was still alive’. Guernsey was liberated from the Nazis on 9th May 1945, and the evacuees were able to make plans for their return home. However not all the evacuees returned to Guernsey, as they felt that they would have a better future in England. In addition, many had married English people and found promising employment. Some who returned to Guernsey discovered that their homes had been damaged or destroyed, others could not settle or find work, and they soon returned to England. Many of the children were sad to leave the English ‘foster parents’ that they had come to love, and found it very difficult to bond with their real parents after five years apart. Many evacuees are still in contact with the English families that cared for them during the war.


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    The resurgence of interest in cycling throughout the UK that was fuelled by the stunning exploits of its Olympic medallists this summer has been further endorsed by the announcement last night of Bradley Wiggins as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

    Cycling has been popular for well over a century, before the advent of cars and other forms of motorised transport that we take for granted today. It has gone through many periods of change but, perhaps one of the most significant times was when cutting edge and new manufacturers started to promote their machines and sport through commercial exhibitions. One of these was the Lightweight Cycling Exhibition held at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster. In the introduction to its 3rd Annual Exhibition Catalogue dated 27th October – 3rd November 1934 it stated, “Never before has there been such a boom in cycling. There are many reasons for this, not least the improved design of cycles in general use. But there must be no standing still. Exhibitors at the Lightweight Cycle Show realise this. New designs, new ideas, improvements in detail are manifest on many of the stands, and the cycle itself is by no means the only product in connection with the pastime which has improved during the past few years. Clothing, waterproofs, bags, shoes, tents; all have undergone changes resulting in more comfort to the user and more lasting wear.”

    The show was organised by J.E. Holdsworth, brother of W.F. Holdsworth, one of the iconic cycles of the period and well known to all keen cyclists today also. Claud Butler, an equally iconic brand was there also, as were others such as F.H. Grubb, R.O. Harrison and Hobbs of Barbican. But, perhaps the most interesting exhibit at the Exhibition was on Stand No. 19, The “Tour de France Cycle”. This was the actual cycle ridden by the German, Geyer, who had come 7th in the race with a time of 147hrs 13mins 49secs. I’m sure that visitors who witnessed this would have been hoping for an Englishmen to claim a strong position in this classic race.

    Little did they know that it would be another 74 years before an Englishman would climb the podium in Paris and claim the title, followed by a Gold Medal performance in the London 2012 Olympics. The early pioneers who helped to develop the technology and further the awareness of this nationally loved pastime would certainly have been pleased to see the fruits of their labours manifest itself in the success of Bradley Wiggins and the British Cycling Team under the expert stewardship of David Brailsford as their Coach.

    René Dee is the author of Sweet Peas, Suffragettes and Showmen: Events that Changed the World in RHS Halls.

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    When it comes to the beginning of a new year, everyone vows to make changes, whether that is losing weight or being more organised. Exciting times lie ahead for The History Press and a Pinterest profile is just the start of some big changes being made in 2013.

    “What is Pinterest?” you may ask. Luckily, we have the answer; Pinterest is a virtual pinboard on which you can organise and share all the interesting things that you find online. Browsing boards is a fun way to discover new things and be inspired by people who share your interests.

    So far, The History Press has been using it to share stunning archive images of local history in the UK and to celebrate just some inspirational figures and events from history whilst sharing the most interesting books that we have published. So whether you want to find out more about the world’s largest deckchair in Bournemouth or how Fleet Street got its name , the History Press has the answers!

    As the year goes on and other resolutions (may) fall by the wayside, we plan to show you what happens behind the scenes in a modern publishing business and answer some of your frequently asked questions, so get thinking about what you would like to see…

    Do you have a Pinterest account? What was your new year’s resolution?

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    A coloured engraving based on the Cassandra portrait. (c. 1873)

    A coloured engraving based on the Cassandra portrait. (c. 1873) Image taken from 'The Jane Austen Miscellany' by Lauren Nixon.


    It has been 200 years since Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, was first published and both the book and its characters remain extremely popular. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy regularly top readers’ lists of the most popular characters in literature but who exactly is Jane Austen and why is she so popular?

    Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 to the Reverend George and Mrs Cassandra Austen during a particularly cold winter and since her first publication (Sense & Sensibility) in 1811 she has gone from an anonymous lady writer to the godmother of modern ‘chick lit’. However, her letters and novels reveal a highly intelligent and witty woman who was gently satirical in her work and someone for whom family were of the utmost importance. She was the youngest girl in a large family with 6 brothers and 1 sister and it is clear that she enjoyed society, often reading excerpts from her novels to friends and family. Jane never married (despite receiving a proposal in December 1802) and died of illness in Winchester  on 18 July 1817, aged 41.


    For many, Jane Austen’s works are seen as the ultimate choice in romantic escapism and Pride & Prejudice’s enduring popularity pays testament to Jane’s literary skill. In 1870, Antony Trollope wrote that

    "[Austen] places us in a circle of gentlemen and ladies, and charms us while she tells us with an unconscious accuracy how men should act to women, and women act to men. It is not that her people are all good; – and, certainly, they are not all wise. The faults of some are the anvils on which the virtues of others are hammered till they are bright as steel. In the comedy of folly I know no novelist who has beaten her."

    Although Jane only wrote of the (seemingly) genteel upper-middle classes, her sharp intelligence produced complex characters that explored and challenged societal norms and that were adored and loathed in equal part.

    "First and foremost let Jane Austen be named, the greatest  artist that has ever written, using the term to signify the most perfect mastery over the means to her end. There  are heights and depths in human nature Miss Austen has never scaled nor fathomed, there are worlds of passionate  existence into which she has never set foot; but although this is obvious to every reader, it is equally obvious that she risked no failures by attempting to delineate that which she had not seen. Her circle may be restricted, but it is complete. Her world is a perfect orb, and vital."-  G.H. Lewes, in The Lady Novelists, 1852

    "Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."- Mark Twain



    Whatever your thoughts on Austen, her influence, especially on other writers, cannot be underestimated. If you are a die-hard 'Austenite'  why not re-read your favourite Austen book, try the ultimate Austen quiz or find out which Austen heroine you are most like. Still not convinced? Take the anniversary as the perfect excuse to give Jane another shot and  use this brilliant cartoon as a reference for what exactly is going on in the book...


    Today, The Jane Austen Centre in Bath will be hosting an event that will be broadcast around the world- a 12 Hour International Readathon  to mark the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, where the book will be read in its entirety during a twelve-hour period. The half day long event will take place at the Centre in Gay Street and will be streamed to eager fans all around the world. For more information on this event, click here.

    Further reading

    Are you a Jane Austen fan? Will you be re-reading Pride & Prejudice to celebrate the anniversary?

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  • 02/27/13--23:45: Tell us what you think...
  • Uncle Sam. Original design for various “I Want You” recruiting posters by James Montgomery Flagg, ca. 1916-17 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

    It can be all too easy to get used to talking at people, rather than to them and sometimes we can forget just how important getting feedback can be. Without feedback we can't see what is working, make changes to anything that isn't and, most importantly, hear what our customers have to say about our business and products.

    With this in mind, we are asking for your opinions. The History Press will be launching a monthly newsletter in March, and to ensure that we are sharing things that interest you, we need your help.


    • * Which topics would you like to see features on? (E.g. is there a specific author, book or time period that you think we should be writing about?) 
    • * Do you have any burning questions that you have been dying to ask our authors or editors? 
    • * Which aspects of publishing are you interested in learning more about? 
    • * Are you interested in reviewing one of our upcoming titles? Get in touch


    If you have any ideas about what we should be doing, please comment on this post or send us an email. If your idea is used for an article, you will receive full accreditation and receive a voucher code for use on our website.

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    The History Press, Who Do You Think You Are?, WDYTYA, BBC WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are?, Generalogy, Family History


    It is a cold Saturday in February and people of all ages have descended on London’s Olympia to find out who they are. The building boasts an abundance of stalls, experts and societies ready to help them in this quest, and visitors who want to map out their newly discovered lineage on a traditional (or digital!) family tree have certainly come to the right place. But don’t be fooled – there is much more to this event than surveying census records and digging through burial registers.


    My interest is piqued by the photograph exhibition in the Gallery. The various contributors have provided a diverse collection of images of their ancestors, and the captions are enormously helpful for putting the pictures in context. Amongst those who feature in these snapshots of the past are a female Salvation Army officer who was forbidden to marry the soldier she loved (but married him in 1911 anyway) and a twelve-year-old boy who might well have been one of the very first trick cyclists. So many of these stories would have been lost if nobody had taken the time to remember them.


    As a lover of art, I am also impressed by the Drawing on the Past exhibition, where old letters and postcards have been artistically layered over the top of treasured photographs. (After viewing this display, I immediately enter a competition to win a ‘Scanning and Editing Old Photos’ online course!) The ground floor of the building is where the exhibitors market their services and products, and I am tempted by the wealth of books, magazines and gifts, all begging to be bought. One stand is selling jewellery made out of farthings, while another specialises in beautiful journals where a record of the present can be gifted to future generations. Other exhibitors are there to offer advice and assistance, and some want me to discover who I am more than I do! Without even asking, I am informed that there were just four people with my surname living in the UK in 1881.


    But the highlight of my day is Dr Turi King’s Richard III workshop. Her lecture is genuinely fascinating – and surprises me by being funny too. The audience laugh out loud when Dr King debunks the myths and fabrications that were reported in the press. And no, we are told, we cannot have our DNA tested to see if we are direct descendants of Richard III! The images we are shown of the skeleton itself, with its twisted spine and multitude of horrific injuries, are incredible, and I cannot imagine how thrilling it must have been to literally unearth this piece of history. Of course, I frequently return to The History Press stand throughout the day. Some people want to purchase books, some want to write them, and others are just happy to chat. It is a joy to talk to these visitors, who clearly love history as much as we do.

    Written by Jennifer Briancourt, Editor at The History Press

    Further reading for Genealogists and Family Historians:

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    Image taken from IWD website.

    This year, International Women’s Day, on Friday 8 March, centres on the theme of ‘momentum’ and offers us a good opportunity to look forward and answer the question ‘How can we keep up our momentum this year in the things that we do?’  This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette best known for her tragic demise following the events of the Epsom Derby on 4 June 1913. Emily’s death is a key event in both women’s suffrage and British political history, and the anniversary is an ideal opportunity to look back at both what has been achieved so far throughout women’s history, but also to provide the momentum and impetus for the changes that still need to take place. 


    To many people it is undeniable that the position of women has improved dramatically since 100 years ago, when women were still struggling to get the vote. Women now excel in the arts, academic life and business; they participate in all areas of the political social and economic life in ways that would have been unthinkable to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Women exert power and influence and shape their own and other women’s lives. Young girls growing up have unparalleled access to education and a sense that they have a wide range of possibilities and opportunities for their future lives. This is a result of improved health care and access to contraception, legal changes such as the sex discrimination laws and equal pay acts and most importantly changes in culture and attitudes. Significant in giving momentum  to such cultural changes are role models; young girls are influenced by being able to see women as head teachers, professors, doctors, running their own businesses and having successful careers in the media.


    For example Margaret Thatcher as the first woman prime minister was instrumental in the huge rise of women MPs when Tony Blair swept to victory in 1997. Anita Roddick as the successful head of the Body Shop retail chain no doubt inspired many other women to start their own businesses. The current situation would therefore not have come about without the struggles of many women in the past. Women such as: Ellen Wilkinson: Labour Party cabinet minister in the 1940; Lady Denman, the first chairwoman of the National Federation of Women’s Institute, leader of the Birth Control Council and the Land Army in the Second World War; or Fanny Craddock one of the most famous television cooks of the 1960s.


    Each of these women did not accept the limitations society’s ideas of gender might have been expected to exert over their lives. These women and now many more women in Britain may choose the priorities they give to the workplace, to relationships, families and domestic life. However the question remains as to whether there is really equality. The choices that women may make still come at a cost in economicor personal terms. Childcare is expensive for working mothers; in building a career many women find they have to sacrifice starting a family or developing relationships and  they may feel torn between their work and their family. While the costs of achieving personal fulfilment in the workplace, in the arts or sports remain much higher for women than men, equality has not yet been achieved.


    Professor Maggie Andrews is a cultural historian whose work covers the social and cultural history of nineteenth and twentieth century Britain and the representation of that history within popular culture.  She is the author of a feminist history of the Women’s Institute movement and co-editor of a collection of essays exploring women’s relationship with consumer culture in the twentieth century.


    Further reading

    Have women achieved equality? What do you feel are the biggest challenges for modern women?

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    Some of the biggest challenges that crop up when making lifestyle changes, however big or small, are related to motivation (or the lack thereof!) and maintaining your momentum can be one of the most difficult things to do. We asked our authors for their tips and they provided 12 top tips, to keep you motivated and on track with your goals. 

    1. Turn off the internet and avoid social networks. Facebook and Twitter are not your friend.

    2. Just start writing. The hardest part is getting started but you can’t edit what isn't there, so get something down on paper pron screen.

    3. Discipline is key. Think about your aims and write goals to reflect them.

    4. Practice makes perfect. Like any skill, writing needs to be done regularly to see any kind of improvement. Writing every day helps to keep you focused and ensures that you don’t stray from your objectives (see above)

    5. Stop writing when you are not quite through with what you want to say. Apparently Ernest Hemingway used this technique which he outlines in ‘A Moveable Feast’; “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing; but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it”

    6. Enjoy what you are writing about. If you are genuinely passionate about your subject, it will show in your writing and it will be more engaging for your readers.

    7.Share your research with an interested audience and get some feedback. Whether it is positive or critical, it will help to refine your writing and improve your book.

    8. Working to a schedule with firm deadlines helps you focus; it is amazing how much easier it is to write when your deadline is looming!

    9. Being professional makes all the difference. Don’t just sit in your pyjamas to write, however tempting it may be, as your prose could end up as slovenly as your clothes…

    10. Saying that, flexibility is key. If a chapter isn't working, try focusing on another one to shake off that mental block. Doing other exciting things can also help shake you out of a creative stupor; and a visit to a key location can get those creative juices flowing!

    11. Have a genuine desire to share stories and remember history.

    12. Perhaps most importantly, reward yourself with good food and drink. Our authors suggest coffee, cookies or hot chocolate with a Flake…

     Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter and share your tips for getting, and staying motivated.

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  • 03/18/13--02:48: Momentum and how to keep it
  • blank page, coffee cup

    It's March, and any enthusiasm you may have had for a ‘new year, new you’ has likely disappeared; the majority of your new year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside and yet the ghostly spectre of winter is still hanging over your head. This is not the best recipe for getting – and staying – inspired.

    World Book Day on Thursday 7 March was the biggest celebration of its kind anywhere, and was also the perfect excuse for curling up with a good book. World Book Day is so important, precisely because of its community element: it brings together publishers, readers, libraries, schools and bookshops, celebrating the biggest book show on Earth. To maintain your reading momentum, why not find out where your local bookshop is situated and see what events are happening in your area?


    This year, International Women’s Day, on Friday 8 March, centred on the theme of ‘momentum’ and offered us a good opportunity to look forward and answer the question ‘How can we keep up our momentum this year in the things that we do?’ This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette best known for her tragic demise following the events of the Epsom Derby on 4 June 1913. Emily’s death is a key event in both women’s suffrage and British political history, and the anniversary is an ideal opportunity to look back at both what has been achieved so far throughout women’s history, but also to provide the momentum and impetus for the changes that still need to take place.


    Clearly, using special dates and anniversaries can be a powerful motivational tool and can provide the push that is needed to complete your goals. Lent is another calendar event that can be ‘hijacked’ for motivational purposes. This article in Huffington Post’s religion section examines why people give things up for Lent and has some interesting suggestions for things to give up this year. However, even if you're not religious, Lent can be a good excuse not just to give something up, but to take on something extra, or set yourself a goal. Forty days and forty nights is a long time to give up chocolate but maybe it's just the right length of time to start that book you've been meaning to write, or maybe you have some old photos hidden away that need sorting through? Lent is the perfect time to knuckle down and add some flesh to the bones of that project you have been working on (or putting off!).


    The History Press is certainly working on some big projects at the moment. With the launch of our new website and an exciting new newsletter, we are changing how we publish our books and also how we communicate with you, our subscriber. As with all new projects, enthusiasm is at an all-time high and ideas are flying around the office. Structure and planning is essential but not very exciting. The difficulty can arise when trying to maintain enthusiasm beyond the first flush of interest, and so we asked our authors how they maintain their enthusiasm when researching and writing their books.We have condensed their experience into 12 top tips on staying motivated and maintaining momentum, which are perfect for getting you started on that project that you have been avoiding.


    Plus, if you are looking for a healthy foodie boost to help you stay inspired, check out this delicious oaty cookie recipe for a ridiculously simple and delicious snack. We also want to hear from you and we are asking you, what do you want to see?


    What did we do well in our firstset of articles and what can we improve for next time? Comment on this post or send us an email and tell us your thoughts, and we can ensure that our newsletter is both interesting and thought-provoking.


    Further reading:

    World Book Day

    International Women’s Day

    Women’s history category (THP)

    • Emily Wilding Davison: A Suffragette's Family Album (THP, May 2013)

    The Suffragettes: A Pictorial History

    BBC: A suffragette describes her actions

    Suffrage timeline

    Writing Motivation – Inspiration and motivation for writers

    Writer’s Block – Nothing to fear but fear itself

    The Writer Magazine – Instant writing motivation

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  • 03/22/13--08:00: The Friday Digest 22/03/13
  • THP Friday digest

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:

    * After the excitement of electing the first Argentian pope, people have been keen to find out exactly what a conclave is and the ten most scandalous papal conclaves. This interactive graphic telling the story of every Pope in history, from Saint Peter to Pope Francis, is fascinating. Who knew that Urban VII died before his coronation?

    * Interest in Richard III still hasn't died down and this interview with John Ashdown-Hill from the 'Search for Richard Project' gives a remarkable insight into the years of research that happened before the dig even started.

    * Each generation thinks they are an improvement on the last, but Bill Fawcett looks at the lessons of history we've failed to learn and asks whether humanity has actually learnt anything from the mistakes of the past. 

    The British Museum always hosts fantastic exhibitions and 'Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneumwill be the first one they have ever held on these important cities. It is also the British Museum's largest exhibition in London for almost 40 years. It runs from 28th March- 28th September, so don't forget to check it out...


    * An age-old question was discussed this week: Who accomplished more in their life, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar? Some interesting arguments were made for each side and Caesar contacted us directly to make a pretty convincing case. Who do you think achieved more? 


    * After recently winning the Neilsen Digital Marketing Award at the IPG Awards, we at The History Press are thrilled to be shortlisted for this year’s Bookseller Industry Awards for Marketing Campaign of the Year. Keep your fingers crossed for us on 13th May!

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  • 03/29/13--05:00: The Friday Digest 29/03/13
  • THP Friday digest

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:

    * Richard Cavendish marked the anniversary of Sherlock Holmes' most famous case, The Hound of the Baskervilles. This was first published as a book in London in March 1902 . 

    * As the 'Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum' exhibition opens this week, BBC News rounds up the reviews and Vanessa Baldwin, the exhibition project curator, emphasises the importance of telling the human storyDaisy Dunn looks at the relationship between past and present whilst this article looks at the items that people took as they fled. 

    hat would you save in an emergency? 

    * History Today's timeline of British and English monarchs from William the Conqueror through to Elizabeth II makes for interesting reading and is a good starting point to find out more about British history. 

    * After the recent discovery of Richard III's remains, digging up dead monarchs seems to be the next historical trend. This week, it was Alfred the Great's turn to get exhumed...

    * March 27th marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of 'The Reshaping of British Railways', better known as the Beeching report. This was one of the most controversial and explosive moments in British transport history. The withdrawal of more than 2000 stations and 250 services caused many problems and the impact of 'Beeching's axe' is still felt today. Whilst many people remain outraged, 
    Charles Loft argues that Dr Beeching has been unfairly blamed for the decisions of politicians.

    Was Beeching just a scapegoat? Let us know what you think...

    * This world metro map by Mark Ovenden is giving us some brilliant ideas for future holiday locations. Which line would you most like to travel on? The Piccadilly line could be difficult to pack for, St. Petersburg and Rio de Janerio have very different climates!

    * Your daily commute could be improved with the installation of a book vending machine at your local station. John Geoghegan discusses their history; the "antiquarian book randomizer" sounds like a lot of fun!

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    Is being a celebrity or having a larger-than-life achievement enough to deserve legendary status? Reading Fiona Collins' article about what makes a legend got me thinking about who I thought was a legend and who I would invite to my fantasy dinner party.

    Now I want to know, which five people would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? Personally, I would love to meet the following historical figures; I just hope they would all manage to stay civil!


    Statue of Augustus, image from Wikipedia       FDR in 1933, image from Wikipedia      Anne Boleyn, image from Wikipedia       Queen Victoria by Bassano, image from Wikipedia     Jacqueline Kennedy White House portrait, image from Wikipedia


    Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, would make a really exciting dinner companion.  His political acumen consolidated Roman influence and initiated an era of peace whilst dramatically expanding the borders of the Roman Empire. For me though, his social reforms would be the most interesting topic of  conversation as these were very forward thinking for their time.  ‘The Aeneid’ is also my favourite epic poem and without Augustus’ patronage, it would never have been written...

    * I’m sure Franklin D. Roosevelt (better known as FDR) would have plenty to say about the current economic crisis and, by laying the blame with the bankers, his views would prove popular around the dinner table! Perhaps he could help work out the details of a modern New Deal? The fact that he was President for 12 years, whilst being paralysed from the waist down, just makes his legacy even more inspiring. 

    Anne Boleyn remains one of the most intriguing and controversial figures in history. Charged with adultery, incest, treason and witchcraft, she was executed in 1536. Said to be sharply intelligent, I would love to talk to her about her role as a courtier and then wife of Henry VIII, and her subsequent trial and execution. 

    Queen Victoria is the longest ruling British monarch (a massive 63 years and 7 months) and the longest of any female monarch in history. The Victorian Age brought in some huge cultural, political, military and scientific changes, both in the UK and across the British Empire. As someone who oversaw this, I'm sure she wouldn't be short of riveting anecdotes! 

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is most famous for being the wife of John F. Kennedy (JFK) and is one of the most popular first ladies in history. Her pillbox hats and sharp suits made her a fashion icon and her look was copied by millions of women around the world. She was inducted onto the International Best Dressed List in 1965. Kennedy is remembered for reorganising White House social events, restoring the interior of the presidential home and her popularity amongst foreign dignitaries. 1963 was a pivotal year in history and it would be fascinating to talk to someone who was in the midst of it all.


     Which historical figures would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?


    For some suggestions and to see who other people would invite to dinner, click here to see our Pinterest board...

    Fantasy dinner party guests Pinterest board



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    Following the disruption, hardship and challenges of the Second World War, the post-war years brought a sense of optimism and excitement, with families at last enjoying peacetime. This new book follows the lives of the nation’s schoolchildren through the two decades following the war years, recalling what it was like for those experiencing the creation of a new school system; a system underpinned by the introduction of the 11 plus exam and the provision of free secondary education for all.   

    Combining personal reminiscences with a lively description of what was going on in the wider world of British education, Simon Webb provides a vivid and entertaining picture of school life during in the 1940s and ’50s which is sure to bring back nostalgic memories for all who remember the best days of their lives. 

    The Best Days of Our Lives by Simon Webb

    We hear a lot about schools these days. Ever since Tony Blair set such an emphasis on “Education, education, education”, pupils and teachers have rarely been out of the headlines. But Simon Webb’s 'The Best Days of Our Lives' takes us back to times before a National Curriculum, league tables and new ways of doing long division. Webb’s account of school life in post-war Britain makes us realise how many aspects of the contemporary educational landscape are fairly recent developments. His overview of schools in the 1940s, 50s and 60s makes us reconsider many aspects of schooling that have become “givens” in the twenty-first century, and that’s no bad thing. If you really want to think something  through – and educational provision is worth thinking through - you have to look at it with fresh eyes.


    The book contains some surprising statistics – well, they were surprising to me. In 1960, Webb tells us, 80% of young people left school without qualifications. That seems unthinkable today, in an age when the rigorous pursuit of A-C grades at GCSE has become a priority. Yet, by all accounts, those unqualified young people got by, found jobs, had families, more than survived. Another surprising fact is that the 11+ exam, something that has become part of our socio-cultural history, almost part of our collective memory in this country, was only in place for 20 years. The GCSE exam has been around longer than that!


    It’s not statistics and facts that make this book what it is, though. We do read about educational change: the Butler Act of 1944; the coming of the comprehensive school; the raising of the school leaving age. But most of the book is devoted to the experiences and feelings of individuals as they made their way through their education. A range of voices offer their memories and views about starting school, learning Latin, rules, punishments and PE. Webb’s selection of accounts and commentary adeptly exposes the narrow thinking that prevented most working class children from really showing what they could do. He reveals how the assumptions governing setting systems in primary schools and the tests by which children so-say showed their intelligence all militated against equality of opportunity. However, he also demonstrates, through the voices he draw on, that so-called improvements in schooling were not always well thought of by the people they were supposed to benefit. Not everyone wanted to stay at school for longer. Not every family wanted to spend money on uniforms and bus fares for their children to attend a better school.

    If you read The Best Days of Our Lives, you’ll no doubt experience a range of responses. It’s hard not to feel indignant about the social injustice that until so recently shut many young people off from anything but an elementary education. But you’ll also find yourself laughing at the account of the teacher who habitually smoked in lessons. Imagine that during an Ofsted inspection!


    Book: 'The Best Days of Our Lives'

    Author: Simon Webb

    Review by: Sue Creed

    Sue Creed is an avid reader who is keen to promote books of all kinds. She has worked in education - at school and university level - for more than 25 years. When she's not reading, she's gardening. 

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  • 04/05/13--04:00: The Friday Digest 05/04/13
  • THP Friday digest

    The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:

    *  Do you remember the dawn of the mobile phone in the 1970s? 3 April marked the 40th anniversary of the first call. Motorola's press release for the first mobile phone makes for pretty interesting reading too, the dimensions are mind-boggling to modern readers!

    As Amazon Acquires Goodreads, Twitter Shock Ensues. Amazon's acquisition of the popular booksharing platform has sent shockwaves rippling through the publishing industry. Will this move introduce Goodreads to a new audience or does the idea of them cosying up to Amazon make you less inclined to use the platform?

    Is the dislike for Amazon justified? Mackenzie Bezos, author and wife of Amazon founder, defends the online retailer, and this discussion from Publishing Perspectives suggests that this move could actually work in authors and readers' favours. 

    * Jennifer Fosberry looked at 6 ways that libraries can inspire you after writing a book encouraging her daughter to expand her horizons. As the Horrible Histories book series 'naturally comes to an end' do you think that libraries and the books you read as a child helped to inspire your love of reading and expand your horizons? 

    * The BBC's Great British Class Survey has suggested there are seven identifiable social groupings in the UK but Tom Heyden believes that it's not that easy to see where you fit into the class structure.  What class are you? Take the test now and share your results on Twitter

    * The English language has been in the news a lot this week with people asking whether spelling really does matter (controversial topic, I know!) and also where some commonly used words in the English language came from. Do you know the far-flung origins of the word bungalow or robot?  Test your etymological knowledge with the Telegraph's English language quiz

    * We at THP are big fans of social media and we always encourage our authors to get involved in social networking. This article looks at the top ten most prolific authors on Twitter and this one explains why authors should embrace the second most popular social media platform. (hint, that accolade may tell you why...)

    * From the 6 April 2013, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin, gain powers to archive the entire UK web, along with e-journals, e-books and other formats. Curators and experts from all the participating libraries have chosen 100 websites which they judge will be essential reading for future generations researching our life and times in 2013.

    Narrowing this list down to only 100 websites sounds like a daunting task but these experts have done a good job. Are there any websites that you would add?

    * As tensions escalate on the Korean peninsula, Rowena Hammal explains how the division of Korea led to the Korean War and the ongoing tension between North and South Korea.

    * The ring that may have inspired JRR Tolkien goes on display at The Vyne exhibition. A "Ring Room" has been created in association with the Tolkien Society. A spokesman said it told the "incredible story of this ring, the Roman tablet inscribed with a curse on the man who stole it, and its fascinating connections with Tolkien."

    I imagine that there will be a lot of excited Tolkien fans queueing up to see the one ring that inspired it all...

    On that note, happy Friday!

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    Robin Hood

    'Ancient Legends Retold: Tales of Robin Hoodcontains the definitive Robin Hood. In these five early ballads, and one later play, Robin is himself a commoner, a yeoman, a working- class hero, not the ousted, disaffected Saxon earl into which the later ballads try to turn him,  probably to please a Norman nobility that was beginning to enjoy him in spite of itself. They are the earliest ballads and play and still the best of the bunch. Here we have the essential Robin Hood, the real Robin Hood, stripped of the romanticism that would clothe him in noble weeds or the mysticism that would seek to make of him some New Age spirit of the forest, related to Herne the Hunter or Robin Goodfellow. You will find a Robin Hood of fast action, hot temper and unswerving hatred toward the powers that be, especially the power of the Church and the highly paid flunkies, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham. ‘A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode’ is a comprehensive account of the famous English outlaw - complete, unified and pointing quite clearly to the reign of Edward II as a probable time for an historical Robin Hood, despite the opinions of most of the experts.


    In 'A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode', Edward 'our comely king' comes to Nottingham himself to capture 'Robyn Hode' and his friend Sir Richard At-the Lea, who defied the sheriff of Nottingham by sheltering the famous outlaw in his castle. Later, Sir Richard Attlee was caught by the sheriff and taken to Nottingham but Robyn pursued them, shot the sheriff dead and rescued the knight. After this, they both hid safely in the greenwood.

    As a result of this,  Edward rode into the forest himself with several of his knights, disguised as monks. They are taken prisoner by Robyn Hode, relieved of half their money and given a feast. In the course of this, the king made himself known and persuaded Robyn and his Merrie Men to serve him in London town. Robyn spent 'a year and three months' in London, during which all his money was spent and all of his men deserted him, except Little John and Will Scarlet. He asked leave of Edward to go back to Sherwood, to do penance at a chapel he built there. Edward gave him seven days' leave and the outlaws returned to the greenwood, never to leave it again.

    According to mediaeval government records discovered by Joseph Hunter in the new Public Record Office in 1838, King Edward II made a royal progress north between April and November 1323, ending up at Nottingham. On 27 June 1323, a Robyn Hode was given his wages as one of the king's porters, while between 24 March and 22 November 1324, Robyn Hode is recorded as being in the royal service, according to a day-book of the Royal Chamber. On 22 November 1324, Robyn Hode was paid off with five shillings and was no longer recorded as working for the king. For eighteen months a Robyn Hode was in King Edward's service and not long afterward, in 1326, Edward II himself, a 'cumlie kynge' indeed, was deposed by his wife and then was brutally murdered in Berkely Castle in 1327.


    Robyn Hode, a simple yeoman and notorious outlaw, would not have been held in high esteem by the powerful men at court. Edward paid him off and sent him packing, for the greenwood was the safest place for him. Perhaps Edward had a soft spot for him too! These facts fit the 'Lytell Geste' perfectly.  It just goes to show, you should always trust the story!


    Ancient Legends Retold: Tales of Robin Hood  by Michael Dacre, is available on The History Press website. 

    Further reading:

    * BBC: Robin Hood and his historical context

    * Ancient Legends Retold: Tales of Robin Hood

    Depictions of Robin Hood on film and in television

    * Robin Hood: peasant hero

    * Portraits of Society: Popular literature in the seventeenth century.

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