Wednesday, 12 September 2012

King Richard III, Leicester and Not So Hidden History

I'm not, it has to be said, a huge history buff - or at least, I'm not interested in History for History's sake. For me to get interested, there needs to be a hook or a narrative - like Radio 4's History of the World in 100 Objects, for example. Historical dates and context-less Archaeology leave me dry.

There has, however, been a story that has aroused my interest lately - an archaeological dig in Leicester. Jonathan Calder over on Liberal England visited the dig site on Saturday and reports on the fortuitous circumstances which have led to the discovery of a monastery and Robert Herrick's 17th Century Garden.

What has piqued my (and, of course, many others') interest is that the dig is also looking for the grave of Richard III. I find it intensely fascinating that the grave - and therefore body - of a King can become anonymous and all but disappear from public consciousness. Today it's been revealed that two skeletons have been found - one of which could indeed be that of Richard III. DNA analysis will take some weeks to complete but it truly is fascinating to think that the grave and body could be discovered and verified some 527 years after his death.
Something else has piqued my interest as a result of reading up on this story - how our land ownership laws have shaped our landscape. We tend to think of our cities as modern, vibrant places - and the architecture tends to reflect the wealthy periods of the past - Georgian and Victorian - or the necessary post-war reconstruction of the 60s and the property boom of the 90s. But scratch the surface and the way our forebears divided the land is still evident - as can be seen in this comparison from the BBC website:


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