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Ian Stone, historian | hghff
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Ian Stone, historian

to my regularly updated blogs...

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW5NshyGh3g...

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...

Andrew Ziminski, The Stone Mason: A History of Building Britain (John Murray, London; 2020)

It is undeniably the case that university-educated scholars have been responsible for the majority of written research into the buildings and architectural practices of the past. Consequently, when stone masons have been the subject of academic study, the focus has often been, primarily, on the masons’ intellectual role as designers of the medieval buildings which we see today. We should, of course, be grateful to historians...

David Carpenter, Henry III 1207-1258 (Yale University Press, 2020)

For over thirty years, as part of its ‘English Monarchs Series’ exploring the history of the ‘longest permanent governing institution in Europe’, Yale University Press has published biographies of English kings and queens. These books are rightly considered to offer not only the best and fullest biographies of the men and women who have occupied the throne of England, but also a window through which...

Wren’s Masons: The Strongs and the Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire

As is well known, London was destroyed by fire in September 1666. By the time the conflagration had ended, some eighty-seven parish churches, along with St Paul's Cathedral, were no more. All the city's main public buildings, including the Royal Exchange and Guildhall, as well as forty-four livery companies' halls were smoking ruins. Over 13,000 private homes, too, had been razed to the ground. The...