The Writing of Local History

Not problems of the Squire’s pedigree, or of titles to land, but the origins and growth of town and village communities, W.G. Hoskins argues, should be the subjects of local historians today.

In England today, more people are studying, and attempting to write, local history than at any previous period; and occasionally a publisher may be persuaded to undertake a volume on some particular parish or town or county. All over the country, adult education classes ask for courses of lectures in local history—a demand that either cannot be satisfied, or is satisfied in some makeshift and inadequate fashion. The universities, too—if only here and there—have slowly begun to recognize its value; though, where it is considered at all, it is still often regarded as an agreeable hobby for amateurs, with no hope of evolving its own academic discipline.

Nevertheless, the pursuit of local history in England has engaged the attention of many eminent scholars for the past four hundred years. We can date the beginnings of the systematic study of the subject with considerable exactitude, from the appointment of John Leland as the “King’s Antiquary” in the year 1533, and we may indeed claim as its founder King Henry VIII, the greatest patron of learning who has ever occupied the English throne.

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