Rescuing Poldark from the tourist gaze

It’s fair to say that Winston Graham’s Poldark saga, the story of a minor gentry family from the 1780s to 1820, has sometimes elicited a love-hate response from Cornish insiders. This is despite the fact that the history Graham included in his books provided, on the whole, a fair picture of the life of those … Continue reading Rescuing Poldark from the tourist gaze

Surname turnover in 17th century Cornwall

Cornish surnames such as Chesterfield, Oxnam or Sturtridge hail originally from places well outside Cornwall. Their presence, sometimes for centuries, indicates that the horizons of people in the past were not confined entirely to their own small patch. Unlike the common misconception, this was a society on the move, although not usually the distances implied … Continue reading Surname turnover in 17th century Cornwall

John of Cornwall and the prophecies of Merlin

In an age before surnames John of Cornwall was one of the first Cornish literary ‘greats’. A theologian, he studied in Paris before returning to Britain and teaching at Oxford. By 1197 he was archdeacon of Worcester but had been twice turned down for the post of bishop of St David’s in Wales. He was … Continue reading John of Cornwall and the prophecies of Merlin

Cornish mining in the 1790s: truly world-beating

We hear a lot these days in the UK about ‘world-beating’ this or that, usually based on precious little evidence. If we want to find historical examples of genuinely world-beating enterprise, then look no further than late eighteenth-century Cornwall. It’s sometimes easy to forget how far one small district in Cornwall dominated eighteenth-century copper mining. … Continue reading Cornish mining in the 1790s: truly world-beating

Forenames and identity

St Peran didn't just leave his name in the landscape. On occasion, the name Piran or Perran is bestowed on male babies. However, this isn't some age-old tradition, surviving from the days of the saints. On the other hand, it's not entirely novel either. The forename Perran was being used in Perranzabuloe in the 1600s … Continue reading Forenames and identity