“No consideration of the history of the people is complete without a look at the important role local history has played.”
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. William George Hoskins was born at 54 St David’s Hill, Exeter, The young Hoskins won a scholarship at the age of ten for Heles School, before attending the University College of the South West where he made a special study of local commercial history before moving to Leicester. He became the first professor of local history at the University of Leicester in 1965 when he was appointed Hatton Professor of English History 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. The Vaughan Archaeological & Historical Society sprang directly from classes taught by Hoskins and an annual lecture is held in his honour
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 book Devon, a volume that included a gazetteer of all 430 parishes of the county, along with chapters covering the history of the county and its towns, was published in 1954. Some consider it to be the finest modern county history; several of the photos for Devon were taken by F L Attenborough, vice Chancellor of Leicester, and father of David and Richard.
Hoskins 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.
This book became a best seller. W G Hoskins also made two TV series for the BBC, the first in 1972 based on ‘The Making of the English Landscape’ and the second in 1976, called The Landscape of England.