Category Archives: Book To The Future

Bosworth: the Birth of the Tudors @ Book to the Future

henry tudor
After the BBC’s making of the series The White Queen there is no doubt the story of the Tudors’ rise to power is very topical. Attending a lecture on the Battle of Bosworth by Chris Skidmore, MP of Kingswood, enlightened me as to the true story of Henry Tudor and the recent deductions from the finding of Richard III’s skeleton earlier this year. Treachery, intrigue and betrayal were certainly the themes of the 15th century.

On the morning of 22nd August 1485, the army of Henry Tudor and of King Richard III met at Redemore, later known as Bosworth. With some luck and against the odds, Henry Tudor managed to defeat the three times larger army of Richard III. Henry Tudor, a 28-year-old Welshman who had just arrived back on British soil after 14 years in exile in Brittany, won the crown of England.

Chris painted us a brief picture of the history of the story of the rise of the Tudors. I would suggest reading his book for the full details. However, crucially he suggests the turning point for the reign of Richard III was with the ‘disappearance’ of the two Princes, sons of his dead brother Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. Richard had certainly suffered huge loss, losing his wife and son within one year. It seems, on the scandal of the two boys’ possible death, Richard lost the hearts of many noblemen who defected to Henry Tudor in Brittany.

So what was Henry’s claim to the throne at the time? He was the son of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, the bastard brother of the then King. Henry’s main claim to the English throne derived from his mother through the House of Beaufort. Henry’s claim was somewhat tenuous: it was from a woman, and by illegitimate descent.

Part of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster (Henry) and York (Richard), the Battle of Bosworth was the accumulation of this bloody fight over the throne. Chris described a fascinating picture of the battle, explaining the misconceptions in location, the marshy area which forced changes in the battle which resulted in Henry’s win and the level of technological development for the era. For example, the many canons found at the site portray a King well prepared for battle. From the evidence Chris provided, it seemed Richard was rather sure of his win, and due to his army being three times the size of Henry’s, he truly had no reason to doubt this.

It was made clear to us that when the battle is going wrong the King should retreat to fight another day. However when John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford crushed Richard’s vanguard, Richard charged towards Henry’s standard with the crown on his head. History tells that the standard bearer was knocked down and killed, which normally would mean the end for Henry, however this was not the case and when William Stanley, a defector from Richard who had already let Henry pass through Wales undeterred, fought for Henry, the battle was lost for Richard.

It is interesting that William did not get any prize for joining the fight at this time, as he possibly won it for Henry. One explanation is the way Richard was killed, not as a King should be, but as a sort of execution and bound-up and carried like a pig through the battlefield. The skull shows a slice of skull cleanly shaved from Richard’s head, probably the blow that ultimately killed him.

Chris’s interpretation of the evidence and recent archives was fascinating. I cannot do justice to that here. Suffice to say it inspired me to buy his book to find out more! The battle was won by Henry, through the power of other nobles and possibly could not have been won hadn’t it been for the death of the two boy’s in the Tower. To find out the true story, and not the slightly over-dramatized one from The White Queen, would benefit any curious history lover.

by Holly Abel

Doggerland @ Book to the Future

Professor Gaffney

Being a girl from Yorkshire myself, a lecture on a ‘lost’ land named Doggerland certainly sparked interest. Part of the University’s first literature festival ‘Book to the Future’, the lecture given by Professor Vince Gaffney celebrated innovative technology, inspiring findings and historical development of research. It was inspiring and informative, and gave a real understanding of the future of landscape archaeology in this area.

He began by reminding us of the other lost worlds history has presented. For example, James Churchward and the lost continent of Mu in the Pacific Ocean. We all know about the mysteries of Atlantis (and the BBC show is utilising this lost land at the moment). However it soon became clear Professor Gaffney was serious about a land lost beneath the rising sea levels during the last dramatic climate change, the ice age.

The land was inhabited in about 10000BC-5000BC and has become known as the Mesolithic period of hunter gatherers. The history of research into what has been named Doggerland was the main subject of the Professor’s lecture, and demonstrated the development of technology combined with a bit of luck!

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland

The first ‘giant’ he stands on the shoulders of is Clement Reid who published ‘Submerged Forests’ in 1913. He described the remains of trees and stumps that have been submerged by marine transgression due to rising sea levels, meaning the stumps have become petrified. The next was Dr Miles Burkitt, who was pushed by his supervisor to study the Mesolithic period. He published two books, one in 1936 and one in 1939, the first being a ‘let down’ to his supervisor, as was nothing less than a combination of the then present research. His second book however was influenced by the finding of the Colinda Harpoon which a trawler dug up from the peat off the Dogger Banks, in the area of Leman and Ower. This exciting piece of luck demonstrates how evidence on the era was being discovered and put to scientific use.

Professor Gaffney went on to explain how the oil and gas industry helped with his work by surveying the vast area of the South North Sea. Using the help of Dr Ken Thomson, Petroleum Geo-Services (the group carrying out the surveys under the water for oil and gas exploration) gave them 6000 squared km (apparently this is an incredibly small area in relation to normal archaeological digs) to carry out their 3D research on.

This was the turning point for the team, they could begin to see rivers in the layers of sediment under the ocean and get a true picture of vegetative life 10,000 years ago. The main issue is of course that the data will not allow them to see settlements, but due to the developing technology, the team can explore the underwater land using the most modern 3D tools.

The main thing I took from the talk is how by collaborating with many groups across the world, the team has been able to expand their work to areas off of Wales and Qatar for example. Off of South East Asia there is an area named Sundaland, not much smaller than India, lost to the sea. In 2013 they won the European Archeological Heritage Award, which truly demonstrates the value of their work to the field.

I will certainly be keeping up with developments in this area. It is amazing how finding one harpoon can spark off research that will keep Professor Gaffney enthralled for years to come.

by Holly Abel