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Making History
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Tuesday 3.00-3.30 p.m
Vanessa Collingridge and the team answer listener’s historical queries and celebrate the way in which we all ‘make’ history.
Programme 6
8 May 2007

Listen to this programme in full

Pocahontas and Heacham

The village of Heacham near King’s Lynn in Norfolk has long been associated with the legend of Pocahontas and the first English colony in America, Jamestown Virginia. The story goes that Pocahontas married a Heacham man, John Rolfe, who sailed to the New World a couple of years after the first wave of colonisation in 1607. Some years later, after their marriage, Rolfe brought Pocahontas to Heacham to visit his family and this is recalled by a plaque in the village church and, bizarrely, a preserved mulberry tree stump in the corner of the local council’s parks department depot. However, when updating a village exhibition on the story a few years ago, Making History listener Christine Dean tried to find confirmation in the local records that the John Rolfe of Jamestown, Virginia was the John Rolfe of Heacham, Norfolk.

Making History consulted Benjamin Woolley the author of “Savage Kingdom, Virginia and the Founding of English America” (HarperPress ISBN-10: 0007131690 ISBN-13: 978-0007131693 ) who told the programme that all the evidence was circumstantial and that he could find no written record to confirm – or deny – the link.

Useful links:

400th Anniversary website

Jamestown Rediscovery

BBC News

BBC Radio 4 Empire series
Peking/Paris 1907

Alistair Pike in Bristol contacted Making History after hearing our item on the Peking/Paris car race of 1907:

In commemoration of the 1907 Beijing to Paris car rally, my Australian aunt, Heather Burge, and two others are cycling from Beijing to Paris at the moment. All three replied to a small ad that simply said "Beijing to paris, car free, no support vehicles"

You can catch up with Alistair’s aunts journey by following this link
“White Slavery” in the Western Isles

Making History listener Barney Kinsler recalled a visit to the Rodel Hotel on South Harris in 1966. He remembers some artefacts on the wall of the bar which were described as slave whips, used in the transportation of local people to the American colonies – so-called “White Slavery”. Other stories exist locally about people being taken against their will to work as indentured labour either in the Americas or Indian sub-continent. Making History consulted local historian Bill Lawson who made the point that in an oral or story-telling culture, like that of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, it is very difficult to separate fact from fiction. He believes that most of these stories and the few artefacts linked with them, originate in the islands’ maritime heritage – i.e. brought home from travels around the globe.

Useful links:

Bill Lawson’s homepage

Hebridean Connections
The Highland Clearances – a victim culture?

Following the discussion of stories from the Western Isles, Vanessa Collingridge turned to the bigger picture of Scottish emigration and how it is dominated by the brutality of the Clearances. She spoke to Dr Ewen Cameron at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Paul Basu at the University of Sussex about the historical accuracy of such a view.

Useful Links

Dr Ewen Cameron

Dr Paul Basu (includes a link to his Doctoral research on ‘Highland Homecomings’)

The Highland Clearances/

The Highlander Web


Further Reading:

Devine, Thomas Martin (ed.). /Scottish emigration and Scottish society/. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1992. vii, 178 p.

Harper, Marjory. /Adventurers and exiles : the great Scottish exodus/. London: Profile, 2003. x, 422 p.

Harper, Marjory. /Emigration from Scotland between the wars : opportunity or exile?/. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. xv, 243 p.

Harper, Marjory (ed.). /Emigrant homecomings : the return movement of emigrants, 1600-2000/ (Studies in Imperialism). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005. xi, 276 p.

Flinn, M. (ed.). /Scottish population history from the 17th century to the 1930s/. Cambridge, 1977.

Contact  Making History
Use this link to: Email Making History

Write to: Making History
BBC Radio 4
PO Box 3096

Telephone: 08700 100400

Making History is produced by Nick Patrick and is a Pier Production
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Making History

Vanessa Collingridge
Vanessa CollingridgeVanessa has presented science and current affairs programmes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Discovery and has presented for BBC Radio 4 & Five Live and a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, Scotsman and Sunday Herald. 

Contact Making History

Send your comments and questions for future programmes to:
Making History
BBC Radio 4
PO Box 3096 Brighton

Or email the programme

Or telephone the Audience Line 08700 100 400

Making History is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4 and is produced by Nick Patrick.

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