Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Local Historians: 6 Victoria County History


In 1899, a year before Oliver Ratcliff printed his History of the Antiquities of the Newport Pagnell Hundreds, the massive and ambitious Victoria County History project was launched. The driving force was Herbert Doubleday (1867-1941), a publisher with the resources to see this through. The general editorship was overseen by William Henry Page (1861-1934) who in particular edited the Buckinghamshire volumes. The VCH project is still incomplete. Northamptonshire for example, has only completed a small part of the intended plan.

Buckinghamshire was completed relatively quickly. The first volume was published in 1905 and the last volume in 1928.

The approach to the history was scholarly from the outset. Many people were approached to make their contributions and they are reinforced by reference footnotes. The result makes for dry academic reading but overall the facts and sources are thorough.

The historical description of Buckinghamshire largely comes to an end in 1900 and there is not much interest in modern developments. The history is very good on describing the manorial history of each parish and the role of the church, principally the established church, yet much else is ignored. The entry for Wolverton for example, devotes little more that a paragraph or two to the canal and the railway, yet, elsewhere in the Buckinghamshire volumes, four whole pages are devoted to the Lace Making industry.

Nevertheless the VCH is an excellent starting point for any serious researcher of local history.

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