The Making of an English Mythology; from Reality to Fantasy and back again, 1917-1954: Tolkien’s Creative Years.

Following his recovery from the Somme and ‘trench fever’ on his return from France in 1916, Tolkien was determined to create an entire mythology for England. He had hinted at this during his undergraduate days at Oxford when he studied and wrote of the Finnish ‘Kalevala’:

“I would that we had more of it left – something of the sort that belonged to the English.”

This idea now grew during his recuperation until it reached ‘epic’ proportions. This is how Tolkien expressed it when recollecting many years later:

“Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen), I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large to the cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story – the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths – which I could dedicate simply: to England, to my country. “

J. R. R. Tolkien & Birmingham, 1896-1916: The Formative Years, Part One (to 1908) – Middle English

The South African Prelude – Beginnings in Bloemfontein: Arthur Reuel Tolkien and Mabel Suffield (pictured above in the family group), both from Birmingham, were married in Cape Town Cathedral on 16th April 1891, after which came an exhausting railway journey of nearly seven hundred miles to the capital of the Orange Free State. Less thanContinue reading “J. R. R. Tolkien & Birmingham, 1896-1916: The Formative Years, Part One (to 1908) – Middle English”

Scenes from Baptist History: Persecution of the Puritans, Evangelical Revival & William Carey, 1662-1812.

Persecution of All ‘Nonconformists’, 1662-87: It was not until 1687 that the dissenting or ‘nonconformist’ churches felt able to look back upon ye Times of our late Troubles since the Act of Uniformity in 1662 had taken away the relative toleration they had experienced in the Interregnum. The Presbyterian minister Richard Baxter (1615-91) had takenContinue reading “Scenes from Baptist History: Persecution of the Puritans, Evangelical Revival & William Carey, 1662-1812.”

Welsh Bards & Hungarian Balladeers: Imagining the Past – Poetry & History.

Wars of Independence: In 1857, the legendary martyrdom of the courtly poets of Wales by Edward I was used by the nineteenth-century Hungarian poet János Arany to serve as a parable of resistance to another Empire after the ‘heroic’ uprising and war of independence of 1848-49 in his native country. Arany’s poem, Walesi bardok (The Bards ofContinue reading “Welsh Bards & Hungarian Balladeers: Imagining the Past – Poetry & History.”

The Civil Wars and Local Communities in England, 1642-47: Documents, Debates and Case Studies from Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire.

National, Regional & Local Narratives: Local history has provided one of the most fruitful areas of study for historians researching the English Civil Wars in recent decades. Whereas earlier historians had tended to concentrate on presenting a chronological narrative of military events in the locality, more recent authors, stimulated by the wealth of source materialContinue reading “The Civil Wars and Local Communities in England, 1642-47: Documents, Debates and Case Studies from Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire.”

The Three Kingdoms and The Third Civil War, Part Two – Scotland, 1650-52: Dunbar & Worcester

The Fate of the Earl of Montrose, April-May 1650: At the beginning of the new decade, with Oliver Cromwell wintering in Ireland, together with a significant portion of the parliamentarian army, from the middle of January onwards the Rump became ever more fearful that the Scots were about to take up arms once more forContinue reading “The Three Kingdoms and The Third Civil War, Part Two – Scotland, 1650-52: Dunbar & Worcester”