JONATHAN E.O. WILSHERE (1936-1995)
Writings on Leicestershire local history, now available online and free of charge

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Review: 'Scenes from Kirby Muxloe History. Jonathan Wilshere. Leicester Research Services, 1971, 50 pages.'
Source: This review was written by John Rhodes of Kesteven College of Education in 1971. The publication in which it featured is not known at present, but attached to the cutting is the following: Department of Adult Education, University of Nottingham: With the Compliments of the Librarian. 14-22 Shakespeare Street, Nottingham. NG1 4FJ. 1971

Generally speaking local history is written by two fundamentally different kinds of author; first by the professional, who explores a local theme to illuminate, often by contrast, a familiar historical generalisation: and secondly by the local enthusiast, who seeks to condense into a convenient booklet for his neighbours the scattered information about their common place of residence. While ideally the local historian might attempt both approaches simultaneously, Mr. Wilshere on Kirby Muxloe must have aimed solely at the local readership, for who else would wish to know that the 664 'bus service began on the 4th February, 1930?

In fifty pages he provides, in his own words, an account of "Certain random aspects of its past," from a neolithic flint implement found in the nineteenth century, to natural gas making its appearance in 1970. The range of material he covers is indeed formidable, including sections on the descent of the manor, early agriculture, population and occupations, parish government, the poor, transport, and social life. But, despite claims to cover "Subjects often ignored in the average village history," most of his source-material (e.g. Probate Inventories, Census Enumerators' Abstracts, Parish Registers, and records of parish administration) is very familiar to the average local history group. Moreover, in the best antiquarian tradition, he has included at least one ghost (page 23), a haunted house (page 26), and an unsolved murder (pages 17-20)!

While undoubtedly the local resident will find much to interest and entertain him, the more general reader might question Mr. Wilshere's wisdom in attempting to cover so much ground in so little space. More importantly the space he devotes to particular topics bears no relationship to their importance. The account of a murder in 1854 occupies two and a half pages, but tells us little about Kirby Muxloe. In contrast "Early Place Names" and "Early Agriculture" are together dealt with in just over a page. Two long appendices, including a plan of part of the manor in c1727, occupy seven pages but are not directly related to the narrative at all! Particularly as one of them includes field names, the size of individual farms and their rental, it might have been profitably linked with the sections on "Place Names" and "Early Agriculture".

Finally to fundamentals of presentation. A very serious omission is the lack of any map of the whole parish to give the stranger his bearings. Equally important, while shortage of space probably necessitated the paucity of footnotes, it cannot excuse the omission of a bibliography. Nor is the short introductory section on "Sources" a real substitute for one.

In conclusion Scenes from Kirby Muxloe History is a typical piece of contemporary local historical writing for the local reader. In contrast with many similar works it is pleasingly illustrated, professionally published and reasonably priced.