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The Charter of the Forest

Tom Holland presents the last in the series. He examines an 800-year-old document that is the world's oldest environmental charter and explores the Iron Age origins of Heathrow.

Tom Holland with the last in the series, exploring new historical research and resonances.

We travel to Durham to examine the world's oldest piece of environmental legislation, the Charter of the Forest which was made law 800 years ago in 1217.

Tom reveals how travellers from Heathrow may well be taking off from one of the most important Iron Age sites in the UK.

We also hear memories of family holidays from a unique collection in Leicester and reveal how key figures in Russia's October revolution of 1917 met in the East End of London 10 years earlier.

Producer: Nick Patrick
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

28 minutes


Tom is joined by Jackie Keily and Claire Kennan, a graduate student at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Russian Revolution - Made In London?

The Russian Revolution - Made In London?

2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, a political hiatus that helped shape the history of the twentieth century. Historians, artists and politicians have trawled through the momentous events of 1917 in Russia, but how many people appreciate that many of the characters involved then were meeting together and debating their various ideologies in London ten years earlier?


For Making History, Dr Brendan McGeever takes Tom Holland to an anonymous street in London’s East End to show him the house where Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Rosa Luxembourg amongst others met to discuss the meaning and future of Bolshevism.

The Charter of the Forest

The Charter of the Forest

2017 is the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest which was in the teeth of civil war and French invasion and helped to secure King John’s infant son, Henry III, on the English throne. It did so by re-establishing the eroded right of commoners to use royal forest at a time when ‘forest’ meant something different to today. The charter limited the king’s power over huge swathes of the country and established rights that people had over their own land. Remarkably, it was on the statute books until the 1970’s.


Dr Christian Liddy and Dr David Crook  explained how the charter came about and what its impact was.


Some, including the environmental lawyer Professor Nick Robinson, see the Charter of the Forest as the world’s earliest example of environmental law.

Heathrow’s Neolithic Origins

How many of the 75 million people using London’s Heathrow Airport this year fully appreciate that  its 1,227 hectares have consumed a landscape rich in archaeology that goes back to the Neolithic? Tom Holland goes airside to meet archaeologist John Lewis who understands more about the rich past of this concrete jungle having led the excavation before the construction of Terminal 5.

Holiday Histories

The team at the Special Collections University of Leicester  have been working on the history of the holiday - no surprise really given that Thomas Cook’s first excursion (by train) left the city back in 1841. Making History shares a few memories of holidays in the 1920’s with its listeners.