The Story of Leicester

Posted by ap507 at Dec 13, 2013 02:10 PM |
Siobhan Begley publishes new book on the last 2,000 years of Leicester

Siobhan Begley, who works in the University library, has published a new book that traces the evolution of Leicester City across the last 2,000 years.

The book, entitled The Story of Leicester, begins in the Roman town of Ratae which once stood on the site of Leicester and flourished for more than 300 years before vanishing into obscurity. 

Medieval Leicester was a busy market town and grew to be a place of some significance and status. However, in the Tudor and Stuart periods the town declined.  

By the early eighteenth century, however, Leicester was prospering as an agricultural centre and local people took to manufacturing stockings, giving Leicester a staple industry. This, unfortunately, did not live up to its early promise and poor working conditions and a fluctuating market made the life of the framework knitters hard.

Urban
Source: Wikimedia Commons; Chaos and Creation On York Street. This inner city street is an example of Leicester's constantly changing urban landscape
Industrialisation and population growth radically changed Leicester in the late nineteenth century and the town became prosperous with an economy underpinned by the hosiery, boot and shoe and engineering industries - the basis of modern Leicester.  

The latest episode of Leicester's history is full of change - the city has been enriched by new cultures and the old occupations have largely gone but there still remain many historic buildings to remind us of the past.

Siobhan first came from London to Leicester in 1972 as a school leaver and studied English and History at the University. 

Canal
Source: Wikimedia Commons; Grand Union Canal and Factories in Leicester. The houses visible to the left of the photograph are located on Marjorie Street in Leicester.

"I always liked Leicester very much and was interested in its history," Siobhan says. "After three enjoyable years here I trained as a teacher and then spent many years teaching English overseas. In 1995 I came back to the UK permanently and decided to return to live in Leicester. I took a PhD in Urban History at the Centre for Urban History, and this was focused on late Victorian and early twentieth century Leicester."

Parts of Siobhan's book are based on original research, but she has also drawn extensively on existing literature - the considerable body of work on Leicester’s history that has been built up by local historians both professional and amateur over many years.

Siobhan says: "It has given me great pleasure while writing this book to learn so much about the city which is now my home and now that it has been published I feel as if I really belong here."

You can purchase the book from the University Bookshop.