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I knew David Hey for 30 years, and it is with great sadness that I offer this review of his last and posthumous book. I recall well how I first met him. It was Easter 1985 and I was on my way to the British Agricultural History Society conference to give a paper. I hadn’t been to that conference before, nor had I ever given a paper to a conference (as opposed to a seminar).
How fortunate are historians of that broad band of southern Somerset covered by seven topographical volumes of the Victoria County History (VCH) compared with those of most of the historic county for whom no such resource yet exists. It is the distant ideal of the complete set for Somerset that is most urgently required.
The Victoria History of the Counties of England, more commonly known as the ‘Victoria County History’ or simply the ‘VCH’, founded in 1899, is without doubt the greatest publishing project in English local history.
In Malay Kingship in Kedah: Religion, Trade, and Society, Maziar Mozaffari Falarti offers a fascinating contribution to the study of local history and political models in Southeast Asia.
Professor Dyer’s A Country Merchant represents the development of several emerging themes in late medieval and early modern history: for one, the increasing recognition of the long 15th century, and especially the period roughly framed by the reign of Henry VII, as an important ‘Age of Transition’, most eloquently highlighted in his own book of that title.(1)
Hitherto, the historiography of ‘city-states’ has in general not been comparative, preferring to focus on one city, or one region, rather than taking a European perspective.
Reports of the death of the Mediterranean – on some accounts from pollution, on others from conceptual redundancy – have proved exaggerated. Conceptually, at least, ‘The Mediterranean’ flourishes as never before: an idea more than a sea. It seems ubiquitous on web sites and in book and journal titles as well as on conference posters, not to mention political action plans.
In February 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded over £3 million to the Victoria County History (VCH) – the high priest of England’s local history – to establish an ambitious new local history project, England’s Past for Everyone (EPE).
In terms of its published historiography, the Southwest of 15th-century England remains one of the few grey, if not blank, areas on the map. Although several doctoral theses have been written on parts of the region since the late 1970s, what has been published takes mostly article form and is consequently comparatively narrow in focus.
The ‘holy grail’ for academic local historians over the past 50 or so years has been the search for regions, a search conducted partly out of genuine interest, partly as a parallel to regional geography, and partly from motives of self-preservation resulting from fears that ‘local history’ conveyed the impression of being parochial and antiquarian. W. G.