Trevor Fisher BA, MA, MEd was brought up in Hockley, Birmingham, educated at All Saints Primary school, Lordswood Boys Technical School and the universities of Warwick, Birmingham and Keele. At Warwick I was taught by E P Thompson, at Birmingham by Stuart Hall, and at Keele by Tim Brighouse. I taught in 11-19 state run educational institutions for 37 years. Since retiring I have moved from the nineteenth and twentieth century British history taught professionally to focus on a wider mix of topics from the early modern period to the twentieth century. I prefer issues where the lives of ordinary people and the powerful are connected, or topics where issues are obscure. As a rule of thumb I believe that “the short and simple annals of the poor” may be short, but they are rarely simple.
The essays here mainly fall into three categories, Local, National and Local-National. The purely local essays, like those on Aston Villa and Shugborough, focus on people and places which relate to a limited area. National issues are clearly ones that do not, so Marlowe, Labour, Elizabethan spies and Victorian morality issues are national in nature.
The more complex areas are both. Mary Queen of Scots is national in three countries (Scotland, France and England) but from my viewpoint is a local figure, imprisoned at Tutbury, Chartley and Tixall. At Chartley the local factor includes the northern end of the Babington Plot, which has international overtones. The Theme also involves spying, which is national, Gilbert Gifford being Walsingham’s chief agent. Chartley is where the Devereux family lived and being Earls are local and national. The same is true of the Gifford family which has lived at Chillington in Staffordshire since 1178. The Giffords owned Boscobel, putting them into the frame for the national issue of the first importance, Charles II’s escape from the battle of Worcester which has a local theme as without the People of the Forest of Brewood Charles would never have survived – Gilbert Gifford is involved in Mary Queen of Scots, the spying theme and the history of Catholicism in the 1580s.
This is work in progress so Robert Poley, the extraordinary double agent involved in the Babington Plot is not yet an issue, but it is an issue that the day Christopher Marlowe disappeared, he was present in Deptford and thus is involved in the mystery of what happened to Marlowe in Deptford. Which flags up Marlowe’s role in Elizabethan politics which raises questions both national and deeply conspiratorial.
The fact that there is no simple division between local and national issues led to the essay I wrote for the British Association for Local History, which is given here. Other issues which do not fit into a simple thematic pattern go into the Commentaries section. There are connections which may not be obvious at first sight.
The site is dedicated to my Mother and Father, without whom I would not be interested in history. My Mother was consciously an influence, taking me to Aston Hall when I was in primary school and introducing me to Shakespeare and Kipling, Shakespeare being the speeches in the history plays, Kipling the Barrack Room Ballads. She made me aware the past shaped the future, her time in rural Shropshire where she was born a constant presence. My father was an indirect influence, for though my mother would not us go to Villa Park till I was in secondary school, I was brought up to believe Villa were the greatest club in the world and told stories of the great figures my father and grandfather had seen, Harry Hampton, Pongo Waring and Billy Walker notably. This sharpened my critical faculties as by the time I actually visited Villa Park it and the team were falling apart.
Without my parents my career as a historian and this site would never have taken shape.
18 4 2021