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The past fascinates us. On television in recent years one has watched families experience life in the Bronze Age, in the 1900s house or the Frontier House. If this is too passive one can visit a heritage site ranging from everyday Viking life at Yorvik Viking centre in York to the Home Front in the Second World War at Eden Camp also in Yorkshire. If one really wants they can join the Sealed Knot Society and fight in a Civil War battle or join the Society for the Creative Anachronism and take on a mediaeval persona to attend a mediaeval feast in mediaeval costume and eat mediaeval food from mediaeval recipes The demand for this obsession with the past has created a magazine Living History. The magazine published by Origins Publishing and has features on most aspects and eras of history and heritage, but the emphasis is on visiting and experiencing the places featured I bought the first issue of Living History when it was first on sale in April of this year and have bought all of the issues so far. I bought it in W H Smiths. I have discovered it is not the easiest publication to fond but most decent sized newsagents will stock it. It is monthly and costs £3.25 which I feel is not too bad value for money for a quite money as it is a niche market publication (even though it is aimed at the popular end of the market)I bought it for personal and academic reasons. I bought it as I am one of those people who is passionate about history and loves visiting old places. I have been known to read the BBC History magazine now and again if there are any interesting articles and was curious about Living History when I first saw it in WH Smiths. I also bought it as it could be a useful source of information for my <asters degree in Heritage Studies. I am younger than the typical reader as the results from an initial reader?s survey showed the average age of the readership is 43. This review will be concerned mostly with the latest issue (Issue 3, July 2003) of
Living History which I bought yesterday but will comment on previous issues where needed. The Cover The cover features a big photo of Blackadder star and Time Team favourite Tony Robinson. The font style of the title living History and the general lay out of the cover is very very similar to the BBC History magazine. It would be easy to confuse the two magazines on first glance. Perhaps this is a deliberate ploy to gain BBC History magazine readers by picking up the wrong magazine by mistake. This was the first issue not to have a free gift on the cover. The gifts were pocket books on Castles and historic houses and gardens and an Ordinance Survey map of Roman Britain. The gifts are very good quality and are fairly useful. However this issue like the others has money off vouchers worth £20for top heritage attractions. For someone who visits a lot of attractions the £3.25 cost for the magazine would be easily reimbursed by the savings when using the vouchers. The magazine is quite slim and only has 98 pages. Perhaps a slightly thicker magazine would be even better value for money. Luckily out of these 98 pages only about ten of them are adverts which are bearable. The adverts are for exhibitions, cameras, other history magazines and other miscellaneous history related things. The first article I come to after the index page and editor?s letter is My Favourite place This seems at the moment to be predominantly a celebratory feature with people such as Bill Oddie talking about their favourtie historic place. However it does say to suggest your own so perhaps in issues to come it will be readers? favourite places. It seems the editors are closely working with readers and their suggestions to give them a magazine full of what they want to read about. The next section of the magazine is Here and Now. This contains short articles on recent historic finds and any issues regarding heritage attractions. I was particularly intert4d to rea
d about a medieval pub and its loo being excavated in Litchfield. It also has on this day type of features. What I like about the features throughout the magazine is that there is always a website address or reference to an exhibition so you can find out more if inter4sted. The letters page is fairly normal with feedback praise and queries alongside some controversy. There is also a historical themed crossword which has a nice level of difficulty. The cover feature is next. In the past it has been an extended piece on castles, the civil war and the Dam Busters. This issue?s main feature was on proving if Robin Hood existed and was written by Tony Robinson. I found it really interesting but felt cheated as it was an extract from a book that is a companion to a Channel 4 series. I have noticed a lot of the articles are meant to compliment popular TV series such as the castle feature in issue 1 complimenting the channel 4 series on Castles.I would like to read bout different things to what are on the television. The next feature was a Readers Questions and Answers page which was quite interesting. I skipped through the next article on the Battle of Shrewsbury as I am not that keen on military history. I am more interested in social history. Although I did not read the article in depth I did notice that like most articles there is a good easy to use map for visiting the site. I feel this is one of the magazines strengths as they make ideal reference guides. The next page is a new feature for his issue. It is a new column on controversial subjects in history. I think this an attempt to add an academic touch to the magazine. The first one was on crime and punishment in the 18th century. I had studied this as part of a course for my degree so had some existing knowledge already. I found this piece to be concise and aimed at the right level for an interested layman. The next section is entitled Hands on History. This is history for the
amateur. This covers genealogy, archaeology and that type of thing. I was interested in the first article about planned medieval villages but was less interested in how to use Trade Directories to find your ancestors. The third article was on History summer schools. Perhaps in the future I might do one if I am bored and need a quick fix of knowledge. Footsteps is a centrl pull out in each issue. It is full if different walks around historic towns and buildings. The walks are different lengths and are in locations all over Britain. Walks in this issue include New Lanark, the Sutherland Clearance estates Belfast city hall, Haworth Parsonage ad Jodrell Bank. I will take the New Lanark Walk as an example as I have been there. There is an Ordnance Survey map highlighting the walk and loads of background information into new Lanark. There is also a how to get there guide, what is nearby, essential venue details and suggestions or similar places if you liked New Lanark after visiting it. There is also a brief time line at the bottom. The next feature after Footsteps is a regular feature called Voyage of Discovery. This takes the form of a guide walk by a historian. This issue it was the lost river of Tyburn in London. This was quite interesting but I proffered the walk around Lincoln in the last issue as I never knew that Lincoln was important in the Middle Ages. My favourite part of the magazine is The Way We Lived. This takes the lifestyle elements of other magazines such as cooking, fashion, health, homes and gardens and gives them a historic twist. The history of the roast dinner in issue 1 was particularly interesting. Finally there is the guide. This is a useful listings and reviews sections covering books, TV, exhibitions and special days out. The magazine ends with a Day in the life of a historic figure. This is usually a living history actor. It is quite interesting The magazine is quite enjoyable. However I do not
tend to read it straight away but dip in and out of it. I like the practical information on the sites featured but feel perhaps there might be too many walks. This is definably one for an amateur history enthusiast who enjoys visiting sites, rather than an academic.