Stamping out Problems?

Hooray! The Royal Mail has launched a series of stamps on battles of the Wars of the Roses, based on Graham Turner's paintings. They include two Northamptonshire battles Northampton 1460, and Edgcote in 1469.


Or as they incorrectly have it "Edgecote Moor". We got in contact with the local media to point out the problem, and thus I ended up being interviewed on BBC Radio Northampton on the 21st April. At the moment you can hear what I said on catch up. I'm on 20 minutes in to the programme, for about 10 minutes. There's shorter clip also posted.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09cydww

The story was then picked up on the BBC News Website, from which the picture above is taken.

Further checking indicates that the historian they consulted (David Grummitt) has also got the date of the battle wrong in the accompanying presentation pack. He's gone with the 26th, and not the 24th. There is a whole thesis to write as to why white, male, English, historians have consistently derided or ignored research done by female or Welsh scholars that prove the date is the 24th. 

And I say that as a white, male, retired, Englishman.

The stamps are due for release on the 4th May, and the Royal Mail when asked about the error say there are aware of the many spellings, but they'll go with the one they've chosen. This is despite the fact that even the Royal Mail doesn't spell "Edgcote" with a middle "e" on their post code checker. And, irony of irony, Graham Turner's painting (of which I have a signed art print) is called "The Battle of Edgcote". You can go and see it on his Studio 88 website.

It is also obvious that their chosen man didn't look at the Battlefield Trust website, or do any other checking when he wrote his blurb, relying on work he did 8-9 years ago. I'd call it pretty poor. I can see why he might not find my book or the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society - although we did make a bit of a fuss in 2019 for the 550th anniversary - but he has missed stuff published by the national body for protecting battlefields and the latest research. Actually it is pretty poor all round, especially as he's the man who piled into Tom Lewis' book on medieval combat for not going out and checking the latest historical studies.

Why is the name important? I explain it in the clip, but when that's gone it's like this. The name has never been "Edgecote Moor" in the sources. It's the Battle of Banbury, or the Battle of Edgcote or the Battle of Danes Moor. There are three choices, there isn't any need for a fourth. There is no such place as "Edgecote Moor". There's Edgcote, and there's Danes Moor. Searching for that terms brings you to websites with more rubbish on them, like the incorrect date, or ludicrous statements of the size of armies and casualties and even the wrong location. Details matter. Historians should get them right. How would we all feel if people started referring to "The Battle of Hastings Hill" or "The Battle of Towton Valley". Those aren't the names: they've never been the names.

How confident am I about the name thing? Well, here's a list of the names used in all the primary or near primary sources, up to the end of the 16th century:


["Theosbury" is the contemporary term for Tewkesbury (different story)]

As you can see, we may get to "Edgecote" but we never get to "Edgecote Moor". The spelling "Edgcote" has been used on OS maps since at least 1884, having been Edgcott in 1834.

So we are going to see hundreds or thousands of these packs sent out, with incorrect information masquerading as history. I expect it is to late for the Royal Mail to revise the stamps and the pack. It'd be nice if they issued an apology and slipped an errata into the pack, or something like that. Alas, I fear the story is a flash in the pan, I've had my 15 minutes of fame and that'll be it. 4 years of work to correct these things rolled back in a few weeks. Thanks Royal Mail. Thanks David Grummitt (whose work on the Calais Garrisons, is, I understand, very good). 

On the other hand, it's given me my opening slides for my Edgcote talk at the Battlefields Trust's annual meeting, and for any of my future talks.

NB The views expressed here are MY OWN, and do not represent the views of either NBS or the BT.




Comments

  1. Details absolutely do matter in history. Even when it’s not obvious why it is important to get them right. We all know how a sloppy approach to history can be used. So good on you.

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    1. Thanks. I fear I am just howling into the void. The other stamps are right, so I think others reckon its best not to rock the boat as the publicity is good. Plus there's no way they're going to pulp thousands of stamps, post cards and gift packs. Not seen or heard anything from the expert. As Phil Steele (Trustee of the Battlefields Trust) said on Facebook: "I think one of the great challenges for an expert, Graham (and this episode highlights it), is knowing what you are not an expert on. And seeking outside opinion on that. The WotR expert clearly wasn't an expert on Edgcote. Sadly he didn't know that and I do genuinely believe that that has led to some misinformation that genuinely will harm the public understanding of the battle and its story 😣".

      I shall modify the Edgcote wikipedia page today to refer to this issue.

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  2. Perhaps the Post Office is looking to the collectors market: in a hundred years' time, avid collectors will be hunting down the last, vanishingly rare 'Edgecote Moor' stamp - even scarcer than the 'corrected' Battle of Edgcote stamp.... No?

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    1. Hmmm...be nice to think that's the case, but I think the Royal Mail (not the Post Office any more) and their expert are just going to ride it out. Alas the story didn't make national press, as far as I can see.

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    2. What the Archduke says was actually a plot line in an episode of detective series New Tricks.

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    3. I loved that programme. Dont remember that episode.

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  3. It's always worth putting the record straight. Nice looking illustration on the stamp too.

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    1. We do our best, but this will have done a lot of damage. I will go and add a section to the Wikipedia entry about the controversies and the evidence. I commented on Graham Turner's sketch to ensure he got it right. Still had to pay for my copy.

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