Friday, July 6, 2012

Kibworth and the Story of England

I watched the first episode of Michael Wood's Story of England yesterday.

Red box logo for Michael Wood's Story of England
The six-part series presents British history from Roman times to the present based on the evidence in one small village, Kibworth, which is near Leicester (which is near Birmingham, sort of). Kibworth was selected because there is extremely good documentation of its residents and their lives from Norman times onward.

The first episode, though, focused on the times before those records. The producers enlisted hundreds of Kibworth residents to dig one-meter-square holes in their yards to find out whether there were Roman, Saxon, or Viking remnants, and they found out a lot. It's fascinating to see the skill of Britains' ancient pottery experts, linguists, and archaeologists generally on display.

One of the best parts came near then end, when Michael Wood joined a group of farmers in Laxton, Nottinghamshire, who still divvy up their common land using the open field system that was used in Kibworth, but is no longer. It's a highly cooperative social approach to property. As an American, I've always been a bit unclear on what farming was like in the U.K. before the lords started the process of enclosure. I never really got what enclosing meant exactly. But this part of the show makes it clear, and all the more shocking that a small group of wealthy people destroyed a system that had worked for centuries.

The Story of England is excellent historical television. I highly recommend this episode (linked above), and am looking forward to the future ones as well.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

I watched that show too. I am thrilled at the scope of the series. I got the impression that our legal jury system derived from that allotment system of dividing open field lands to be fair to all the farmers. It was done by "twelve good men and true". I can't wait to see the rest of the series!