Monday, 26 January 2009

Cornish History

For many years I’ve been a keen amateur student of Cornish history. I still enjoy the one-volume summary by Halliday, though it’s long in the tooth and a great deal of work has been carried out since its original publication in the ‘50s. These days there are many excellent books available, from tomes covering wider areas, to micro-histories. The latter are particularly interesting; they are often compiled by dedicated local folk who have intimate, unique knowledge of their subjects. Without their efforts, these small pieces of history would eventually be lost to us.

If you’re interested in carrying out some research of your own, there are some wonderful places to visit. The County Museum in Truro is most helpful and contains many interesting records which, by prior appointment, you are welcome to browse through. Redruth is home to the Cornish Studies Library, again with a most impressive set of archives. The Morrab Library at Penzance is privately run, but for a small charge visitors can access their basement files, which include a great collection of local newspapers going back to the First World War. There are a number of other museums and archives in Cornwall, as well as the public libraries, which also bear searching out. The staff really make these places; despite often being under-resourced they are unfailingly ready to lend a hand.

But beware! There is one danger. It’s easy to be side-tracked, so that you might make a visit with one subject in mind, and then find some very interesting document on quite another area that you simply must read. If this happens your visit starts to lose its shape somewhat, but it’s all there to enjoy – and who says there’s nothing to do in Cornwall on a rainy day?

1 comment:

Ek said...

Just don't watch a DVD or video by the local historians, or have a strong drink with you when you do... some of it is is interesting, but how I have been bored stiff by being told that such and such in a historical photograph, shown in the footage, is my great, great grandfather.

Though one of these videos has given me the idea that I should try and steal a lintel that one of these great, great grandfathers helped forge that still holds up an old building at the foundry he worked at. It's painted green, and is at Perran-ar-worthal.

But how do you steal a cast iron lintel? Where do I put it once I have it?

I don't want to move into the building, because, well, even if tonnes of work was done on it, it's now in the middle of a flood plain.