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Henry of Huntingdon

The Historia Angulorum (History of the English) was written between 1133 and 1154. Henry lived to be 80 years and was about 40 before he began writing his history. Henry has earned a reputation as a good historian.

The one short note that Henry makes about Fulford suggests that he had passed through the site of the battle: 

“The site of the battle (of Fulford)  is still pointed out on the south side of the city.”[i] 

His note confirms that the location of the battle to the south of York was known and his use of the word ‘still’ suggests that this was topical when the words were written perhaps 80 years after the battle.

This also suggests that he could have passed through the site, perhaps on a journey from Lincoln sometime between 1095 and 1110. Ermine Street links Huntingdon to Lincoln and on to the south bank of the Humber. The roads south of York have not been determined. Some of the potential routes would require a short detour to pass though Fulford but when Henry VIII entered York via Fulford, the York burghers made their obeisance to him at Fulford Cross so it was obviously an established route from the south by then. So do the words, ‘pointed out’ imply that this was known to him because it was an early visitor attraction?

He does not say that he visited the site and it is unlikely that he would have seen any physical evidence since he could not have passed through the site until at least 30 years had elapsed since the battle. Roman historians tell us that just 6 years after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, with a similar climatic regime, little remained of the 3 legions that had been slaughtered there.

Both Henry and Orderic might have been reporting what they had been told by people they took to be credible witnesses even though their claims fail the ‘eye-witness test’.

[i] The History of the English People, 1000-1154: Henry of Huntingdon, Translated by Diana Greenway, Oxford University Press, 2002, 0192840754

[ii] Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclsisytical History Book iii,169  tr Marjorie Chibnall


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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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