Attitudes to history vary widely. For some it is full of fascinating stories whilst to others it seems irrelevant in a world that should be looking forward. By many, though, it is seen as essential to the understanding of our present lives and vital to our thinking about the way ahead – and that’s where I stand, believing that failing to learn the lessons of the past is to court disaster in the future. History is not “bunk”. We should understand where we have come from.
Books on Lake District history that have been featured here in recent months include:
- The English Lakes: A History by Ian Thompson
- The National Trust in the Lake District
- The Lowther Family, by Hugh Owen
Today I’m highlighting three more books on different aspects of Lake District history.
The first takes us way back into the past, where all we have to go on are physical remains of long-gone communities. Stone circles and burial mounds give rise both to well-informed theory as to their origins and also sometimes to wild speculation. In just short of 160 pages Tom Clare’s 2007 book, Prehistoric Monuments of the Lake District, gives descriptions of over a hundred prehistoric sites, and as a former county archaeologist of Cumbria the author is well-placed to provide authoritative information that doesn’t merely repeat what others have said before.
Philip Nixon’s, Exploring Cumbrian History, conducts us on a journey through the millennia in which prehistoric settlers, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans have contributed to the history of the county leaving their marks in structures ranging from stone circles to massively fortified castles. He reminds us also of the county’s past industries – fishing, coal, steel, slate, and mining for graphite, gypsum, copper, iron and lead – long before most of the county became devoted to tourism.
Finally for today we focus down on a very specific aspect of history, that of our buildings. It is good to have a paperback reprint of R. W. Brunskill’s excellent book, Traditional Buildings of Cumbria which for a generation or more has delighted readers with his descriptions of farms, cottages, barns, chapels and more, and how they grew out of the landscape using materials ready to hand.