In the Review section of yesterday’s Guardian, the author Penelope Lively pays tribute to her hero: W.G. Hoskins. Hoskins is to local history what W.G. Grace is to cricket. He’s considered by many to be the founding father and standard setter, writing one of the most influential works of local history, The Making of the English Landscape, in 1955 and going on to found and lead the Department of Local History at the University of Leicester. His approach to local history, which was perpetuated through the work of the wider ‘Leicester School’, was to chart the ‘lifecycle’ of a community, from its inception, through its expansion and on to its eventual decline and death. He was hugely influential on historians of local history in Ireland; you can see his method of walking the landscape echoed in E. Estyn Evans’ work in particular.
Lively speaks eloquently about the way Hoskins’ approach gave her ‘a sense of the presence of the past’ which she has used to inform her writing. Although she acknowledges that many people now think his approach is outdated, for her it provided ’an imagery of the juxtaposition of past and present, of the random nature of memory, of the way in which, in the head as in the landscape, everything happens at once….’
The Guardian, Review, 26 November 2011, p. 6