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For Kibworth ..... and St George
on 15 October 2010
Michael Wood never disappoints. Once again his cocktail of popularist history with a scholarly twist works magic. If you are following the TV series on BBC4 (should be on BBC1) you will love the book. Yes, pictures help a lot but the book is much, much better. Most people would be surprised how little text you can actually get into an hour's TV, the detail is in the pages not on the screen. This is an excellent book which utilises all the modern techniques available to the archaeologist and the historian, from field-walking and metal detection to dendrochronology and geo-phys. But, one should never underestimate Wood's own scholarship, he is a dedicated, trained historian and a good one. In brief, the book follows the lives of ordinary families of the Leicestershire village of Kibworth from Roman and Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Norman, and so on, to the twentieth century. What shines through is the tenacity and vibrancy of the English peasantry, their successes and their failures, through famine, plague, war and heresy. Some familes, like the Polles, die off through lack of male issue, others, like the Coleman's are still to be found in the village today, direct descendents of those who ploughed the village fields 700 and more years ago. Yet, despite local particularism, what is seen in Kibworth is the same as can be seen in countless English villages, especially in the East Midlands, and in this sense the story of Kibworth is very much a microcosm of the story of England.
The only criticism one could make is that it does seem that once Wood gets past the Tudors he was under pressure to finish the book. The period 1700 - 2000 is in some ways scantily covered compared to earlier periods and, yet, this latter period has comparatively far more historical records available for study. I am sure, for example, that much more could be said about the 40 brave men who gave up their lives during the Great War of 1914-18 than is included in the book. Indeed, Wood himself admits that 19th/20th century Kibworth could produce a book in its own right. Maybe he will write it. Meantime, this present work is highly recommended.