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Ian Stone, historian | hghff
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Ian Stone, historian

to my regularly updated blogs...

Walking London’s Walls

Recently, I walked the route of London’s old city walls using an app called Relive to trace and then map my walk. The stone walls, which surrounded London to the east, north and west were built early in the third century when Britain was under Roman rule. They were maintained and used throughout the Middle Ages, only becoming obsolete in the sixteenth century. The route...

Murder in Canterbury Cathedral

As King Henry II passed December 1170 in Normandy, France, he began to receive reports of Thomas Becket’s inflammatory behaviour in England. Because many of our sources for the denouement of the quarrel between Henry and Becket are contradictory, the exact sequence of events is hard to reconstruct with certainty. It seems that Henry, although a man famous for his temper, was not provoked to anger – initially...

Return of the Archbishop: Thomas Becket lands in England

On 30 November 1170, that is 850 years ago today, Thomas Becket set sail for England from Wissant in the county of Boulogne. On 1 December he landed at Sandwich in Kent. He had not set foot in England for six years following his clash with King Henry II and subsequent exile. He came back to a mixed reception. Becket’s biographers play up the warmth shown to him by the...

London’s Statues and Memorials: how should we remember and understand the past?

There has been, this year, more attention paid to the meaning and importance of monuments and statues in the public realm than in any year I can remember. While I would not say that the debate has always been constructive and reasoned, as someone interested in these material historical sources, I am glad that more of us are now thinking about the memorials which we...

Crisis in the Capital? Will London Survive Covid?

How many people live in London today? Simple question; complicated answer. What, for example, counts as London? Do we use an administrative measure, counting the number of people who live in each of the thirty-two boroughs and the City of London? Or should we imagine London as the geographic area contained within the M25? What of people who spend half their time in London and...

Wilkes and Liberty! Liberty, Political Radicalism and Popular Protest in Eighteenth-Century London

John Wilkes was one of the most controversial figures ever to have graced the political stage in London and Great Britain. He was a cultured, charming and courageous man of high-minded principle, but also an untrustworthy, unsympathetic, and unfortunate-looking man of the lowest possible morals. He was imprisoned for two years for printing a seditious libel and an obscene publication, yet his supporters repeatedly elected...

Fréteval 22 July 1170: King Henry II and Thomas Becket reconciled?

On this day, 850 years ago, in a meadow close to the village of Fréteval in the Touraine region of France, King Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, two estranged friends, enjoyed a long private meeting. This by itself was quite an accomplishment. Just six weeks previously, Henry had crowned his son Henry, now known as the Young King, as co-monarch of England, in...

The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor

On Brune Street, close to Spitalfields Market, is a building with the inscription ‘Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor’ engraved upon its cornice. In my latest YouTube video I explore the history of the building within the context of the Jewish history of east London. I also consider what the building’s current function can teach us about more recent developments in the East End.

The Coronation of Henry the Young King

In my last blog on the dispute between King Henry II and Thomas Becket, we saw how formidable a character Henry was. He had, by the age of twenty-one, assumed power in territories which stretched from Hadrian’s Wall in the north to the Pyrenees in the south and, throughout his reign, he impressed friend and foe alike with his energy and intelligence. His ascent to the throne...

King Henry III – an interview with Prof David Carpenter

Prof David Carpenter is a professor of medieval history at King’s College London. The first volume of his brilliant new biography of King Henry III (1216-72) has just been published in the Yale English Monarchs series. He joined me to discuss his book, Henry’s action-packed rule, his magnificent abbey of Westminster and his relations with the citizens of London. You can listen to the interview...