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28 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 14 January 2014

Helen Castor and a cast of leading historians, together with listeners, discuss the latest historical research from across the UK. This week - the British work camps that time forgot and the return of the Diggers to a London suburb.

Helen is joined by Professor Justin Champion from Royal Holloway, University of London and Professor Malcolm Chase from the University of Leeds to shine a light on the ways people of different political persuasions have used land and community to tackle social and economic ills.

Tom Holland visits an occupation at Runnymede, where the name of the seventeenth century Diggers has been taken by protestors closely aligned to the occupy movement. Meanwhile at Carstairs, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Dr Fiona Watson meets up with Dr John Field from the University of Stirling to look at the site of a 1920's work camp that history has forgotten. Remarkably, it was one of hundreds that were established in Britain from the 1870's through to the Second World War.

Contact the programme: making.history@bbc.co.uk

Produced by Nick Patrick
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

  • Programme Guests

    Helen Castor is joined by Professor Malcolm Chase from the University of Leeds  and Professor Justin Champion from Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Diggers 2012

    Diggers-2012 - For Making History on Radio 4

    In the summer of 2012, a couple of months after the Occupy movement were evicted from a makeshift camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, a small group calling themselves “Diggers 2012” occupied private woodland overlooking Runnymede near Windsor in Berkshire. The site was once part of a university campus that hold been sold to a property developer but had lain derelict for five years. The Diggers of 2012 wanted to create a radical community which would challenge a system that left land unused when it could be used for needy people.  


    Briony McDonagh at the University of Nottingham (now at the University of Hull) was intrigued that the group at Runnymede used the name of a radical 17th century group that set up camp in 1649 close to Weybridge in Surrey. She is working on a project which tries to establish whether we can trace a link back from Diggers 2012 to Diggers 1649...

    Tom Holland went to meet the Diggers along with Briony and Dr Ted Valance from the University of Roehampton.


    Diggers 2012  


    British Civil War Project 


    BBC History

    Photograph of Diggers (above) is used with permission from Briony McDonagh.

  • Labour Camps

    Professor John Field at the University of Stirling has just written a book on labour camps in Britain from 1880 to 1940. Entitled Working Men’s Bodies it shows just how many camps there were in Britain and how many moderate, social reformers were taken with something that we today might equate with a totalitarian state. Dr Fiona Watson went to meet John at the site of a former work camp in Carstairs, between Glasgow and Edinburgh.


    Read BBC News on Work camps that tackled Depression


    Read BBC news on How the 1930s workcamps operated

  • Threat to Medieval Rood Screens

    Work in East Anglia has highlighted a new threat to what has been described as a treasure-tove of medieval art. The Church Buildings Council working with the Hamilton Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge estimate that over 400 rood screens – usually an ornate, wooden partition between the chancel and the knave – are under threat because of the problems associated with centrally heated and poorly maintained churches.

    Conservator Tobit Curteis explained what the problems are and extended an invitation to Making History listeners to make it known if the rood screen in their local church is under threat.


    Read more on this story from The Guardian


    Church Buildings Council


    Church Buildings Council, Medieval Screens

  • Do you have images of rood screens?

    Do you have images of rood screens from your local church? Whether they are threatened or in good repair we would like to see photographs of these glorious medieval architectural features.

    Email us at Making History



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    Making History

    Making History explores ordinary people's links with the past. The programme is presented by Helen…

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