A History of Yorkshire

County of the Broad Acres

By David Hey

Format: Paperback

This book - enthusiastically reviewed when first published in 2005 - is the most readable and authoritative account ever of Yorkshire's long and varied history. The author's insights and vast knowledge

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Carnegie Publishing

Carnegie is the home of great history books. They believe that good historical writing ? packed with insight, explanation, interest and illustrations ? has a good potential market. They like to make their books accessible to a wide readership, with modest retail prices and attractive design. They are currently expanding their publishing in the areas of general history, city and town histories, counties and regions and industrial heritage.

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The historic county of Yorkshire lasted for about 1,000 years. Its administrative structure was swept away in 1974, but its distinctive identity is still clearly recognised by its own people and by outsiders. Yorkshire was the largest English county. The three Ridings of Yorkshire covered about an eighth of the whole of the country, stretching from the river Tees in the north to the Humber in the south, and from the North Sea to the highest points of the Pennines. In such a large area there was a huge diversity of experience and history. Life on the Pennines or the North York Moors, for example, has always been very different from life in low-lying agricultural districts such as Holderness or the Humberhead Levels. And the fisherfolk of Staithes or Whitby might not readily recognise the accents, ways or customs of the cutlery makers of Hallamshire, still less perhaps of the farmers of Wensleydale or Craven. In some ways, this diversity makes Yorkshire the most interesting of England's historic counties, a microcosm of the country as a whole. Its variety and beauty also help to explain why Yorkshire is now such a popular tourist desination.


Until quite recently people felt that they belonged to their own local area or 'country'. Few people travelled very far, and it was not until the late nineteenth century that the success of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club seems to have forged the idea of Yorkshire as a singular identity, and which gave its people a sense of their superiority. This single volume describes the broad sweep of Yorkshire's history from the end of the last Ice Age up to the present day. To do so Professor Hey has had to tell the story of each particular region and of each town. He talks about farming and mining, trade and industry, fishing and ways of life in all parts of the county. Having lived, worked, researched, taught and walked in the county for many years, he has amassed an enormously detailed knowledge and understanding of Yorkshire. The fruits of his work are presented here in what has been described as 'a bravura performance - by one of the Yorkshire's finest historians'. With a particular emphasis on the richness of landscape, places and former ways of life, this important book is a readable, informative and fascinating overview of Yorkshire's past and its people.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Carnegie Publishing
Publication Date 5 Oct 2011
ISBN 9781859362105
Number of Pages 480

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Press Reviews

This book is magnificent (there is no other word for it), fitting both in scale and quality its subject. Ranging from the Stone Age to the 1990s, it is no mean feat to have captured in 140,000 words the essential history of a county that comprises almost one-eighth of England. David Hey, however, rises to the challenge with a bravura performance that sets a new standard for popular county and regional histories. The book is also visually ravishing. Hey's text is graced by around 500 carefully chosen illustrations, many of them high-definition colour photographs specially taken for the volume by Alistair Hodge. Among a wide range of other pictorial sources, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society provides a number of evocative nineteenth-century photographs of buildings and streetscapes. David Hey makes no apology for the fact that his view of the county's history differs from almost all others because he comes from south-west Yorkshire, 'perhaps the least fashionable part of the county' he disarmingly observes. Potentially a weakness, this is actually turned into a great strength. It is easy to be overawed by the physical and historical grandeur - in their different ways - of the West Yorkshire textile towns, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Dales and York itself. Without in any way marginalising these essential elements, David Hey crafts a shrewd conspectus that conveys a lively sense of the continuities and changes across all three Ridings. As one would expect of a distinguished historian of the Sheffield region, due deference is given to the steel city and its environs; but Hey is alive to the rich history of a striking array of towns that for many (even, dare one say it, from Yorkshire) are often little more than names (for example, Conisbrough, Doncaster, Hornsea, Howden, Pocklington, Rotherham and Selby). Telling textual and pictorial reference is also made throughout to a host of smaller urban and rural communities. Has the book weaknesses? Those interested in the areas of Yorkshire furthest flung from Sheffield may feel cheated. Holderness, and the losing battle of its coastal communities with erosion by the North Sea, is well-covered; but the upland communities of the far west (consigned to the indignity of Lancaster postal addresses) are not. The text is also thinner when it reaches Cleveland, and Alistair Hodge's motorbike seems to have petered out completely once it arrived in Whitby. Middlesbrough is here (albeit unillustrated and with its elevation to a parliamentary borough and Lady Bell's pioneering social investigation of the town misdated), but the iron industry along the rest of the Yorkshire bank of the Tees is ignored; so too are the ironstone mines and communities of East Cleveland, the region's earlier alum industry (save for a glancing reference), and the potash mining that - on a titanic scale - still endures there. These are curious hiatuses in a book that is notably alive to industrial archaeology. But it would be travesty to end a review of this sumptuous book by cavilling. It presents the fruits of a lifetime's work by one of Yorkshire's finest historians, one who has always observed W. G. Hoskins's dictum that stout walking boots should be among the historian's most-valued tools. Malcolm Chase, Local Historian

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