Charnwood Roots is a heritage lottery funded project currently being carried out by the Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust. The project is exploring the history of thirty-five towns and villages in and around Charnwood Forest with the help of volunteers and local communities. Volunteers of all ages are receiving training in order to research, record and write the history of Charnwood from pre-history to the present day. The four year project will involve archival research, oral histories, landscape surveys, surveys of historic buildings and community archaeology. Research will focus on four key areas: building communities, working lives, crime and conflict and landscapes of leisure.
I feel very fortunate to be peripherally involved in the project, not just because my own PhD thesis will benefit enormously from the research, but because my involvement allows me to share the enthusiasm of local people for the history of their area and to appreciate their impressive local knowledge and wealth of experience.
As post-graduate history students it would be all too easy to shut ourselves away in our academic ivory towers, to assume that we have a monopoly on historical research, and to forget that the rest of the world exists. We should resist those temptations. History is about people - and involving the people of the communities we study in the research process, as fellow researchers rather than simply as research subjects, is exciting, stimulating, fun and very much worthwhile.
I am learning a lot from the people of Charnwood – not least that I am not nearly as clever as I thought I was. We work in an academic environment where there is great deal of emphasis on ‘impact’. ‘Impact’, however, is a two way process and I am grateful that Charnwood Roots has impacted on me.