England's Past For Everyone

Anthony Fletcher outlines the Victoria County History's exciting plans for a new century.

Begun in 1899, on-line in 2001, the Victoria History of the Counties of England (VCH) has moved steadily towards the magnificent ambition of its founders to tell the story of England’s towns and villages county by county over two thousand years. Volumes on Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire and the East Riding will be published in 2001-02; further volumes to a new design will follow on Burton-on-Trent, Chester, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Sussex and Wiltshire in 2002-03. The VCH staff are dedicated and energetic. The story they tell is one of colonisation and settlement, of growth and sometimes decline, of social and gender order, of work, custom, responsibility and of local politics.

The VCH was never been sufficiently endowed. London University took it under its wing in 1933: since then it has flourished in partnership with its own trusts and appeals, with local authorities, which have in some cases sustained it with astonishing generosity and latterly with institutions of Higher Education, which have provided accommodation, IT facilities and intellectual companionship for staff. Over the last year, the VCH has been working with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund on a crucially important development plan to extend its coverage to the widest possible audience and to provide on-line access.

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