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Hoskins: The making of the English Landscape

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No consideration of the history of the people is complete without a look at the important role local history has played in developing aHoskins, English Landscapepopular consciousness of the past. Local history societies flourish throughout Britain and much valuable work is carried on by amateurs, often with no formal training in the subject. Many professional historians have also learned the value of local studies in developing their own wider theories.

The man who did more than any other to promote the study of local history and to get it taken seriously by scholars was W.G. Hoskins. Hoskins came from Exeter, where he made a special study of local commercial history before moving to Leicester University to teach geography and economics. It was at Leicester that he developed his deep commitment to adult education, teaching local people about the history and especially the landscape of their own county.

Hoskins’ enthusiasm led in 1948 to the establishment at Leicester of the first university department devoted to the study of English local history. Hoskins had clearly touched a nerve for many people: he was soon in demand for radio broadcasts and he also wrote books explaining aspects of local history for the general reader. His most influential work was The Making of the English Landscape, a chronological survey of English history traced through the physical evidence of buildings and field patterns which many people could see but did not necessarily know how to decode.

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