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W. G. Hoskins
Born William George Hoskins
22 May 1908
Exeter, Devon
Died 11 January 1992 (aged 83)
Nationality British
Alma mater University College of South West England
Occupation Historian, Author
Title Reader in English Local History at University College, Leicester

William George Hoskins CBE FSA (22 May 1908 – 11 January 1992) was a British local historian who founded the first university department of English Local History. His great contribution to the study of history was in the field of landscape history. Hoskins demonstrated the profound impact of human activity on the evolution of the English landscape in a pioneering book: The Making of the English Landscape. His work has had lasting influence in the fields of local and landscape history and historical and environmental conservation.



William George Hoskins was born at 26–28 St David's Hill, Exeter, Devon on 22 May 1908: his father was a baker. He won a scholarship to Hele's School in 1918, and attended the University College of South West England (later the University of Exeter) where he gained BSc and MSc degrees in economics by the age of 21.[1] Both his M.Sc. degree awarded in 1929 and his Ph.D. in 1938 were concerned with the history of Devon.

The remainder of his life was devoted to university teaching and the authorship of historical works. He died on 11 January 1992.

Academic career

Hoskins was appointed Lecturer in Commerce at University College, Leicester in 1931. He found the trade statistics to be dull lecture material but he enjoyed the evenings that he spent teaching archaeology and local history at Vaughan College. His academic researches covered historical demography, urban history, agrarian history, the evolution of vernacular architecture, landscape history and local history. After the award of his doctorate Hoskins was appointed Reader in English Local History at University College, Leicester (1938).

In 1948, a group of local history enthusiasts including Hoskins formed a "Leicestershire Victoria County History Committee". The University of London agreed to publish the second and subsequent volumes of the Victoria County History (VCH) for Leicestershire (the first having been published in 1907) if the Committee prepared the material. The Committee appointed Hoskins as its honorary local editor. He planned the contents of the second and third volumes of the VCH, and edited much of the material submitted. He also edited the articles that formed the history of the City of Leicester. In 1949 Richard McKinley was appointed full-time local Assistant Editor and succeeded Hoskins in 1952. During 1951 Hoskins had shared the honorary local editor position with C. H. Thompson, then Leicestershire County Council archivist.

In 1952, Hoskins resigned from his posts at University College, Leicester, and on the Leicestershire Victoria County History Committee Leicester to become Reader in Economic History in the University of Oxford.

Hoskins was one of the founders of the Exeter Group in 1960 (later to become the Exeter Civic Society). He was president of the Dartmoor Preservation Association from 1962 until 1976.

He became the first professor of local history at the University of Leicester (as University College, Leicester had become) in 1965 when he was appointed Hatton Professor of English History (he retired in 1968). Hoskins wrote and presented a BBC television series The Landscape of England in 1976. Derived from The Making of the English Landscape, the series attracted considerable attention from members of the environmental movement, who cited it to support their arguments for conservation.

Honours and memorials

Hoskins was awarded the Fellowship of the British Academy in 1969 and was made a CBE some time before 1974.

The University of Exeter acknowledged his links with the city by conferring an honorary Doctorate of Letters upon him in 1974.

As founder of the Department of English Local History (now the Centre for English Local History) at the University of Leicester, his achievements are commemorated by the Friends of the Centre for English Local History each year in the annual W. G. Hoskins lecture.

In 2004 the Devon History Society erected a blue plaque on his birthplace with the inscription: "W. G. HOSKINS CBE FBA DLitt 1908-1992 HISTORIAN OF DEVON, EXETER AND THE ENGLISH LANDSCAPE BORN HERE 'HIC AMOR, HAEC PATRIA EST'". He is also commemorated in the annual local history lecture at Leicester and another at St. Anne's College, Oxford.


In 1955, Hoskins published the book that was to make his name. The Making of the English Landscape is a landscape history of England and a seminal text in that discipline and in local history. The brief history of some one thousand years encompassed by the view from his study window at Steeple Barton, which forms little more than a page of the book's introduction has become a standard text in introductory local history courses.

He was also a writer of popular historical guide books where he expressed strongly-held opinions on building and landscapes.


  • Hoskins, W. G. East Midlands and the Peak (London: Festival of Britain Office/Collins, 1951) ASIN B0000CHW4S
  • Hoskins, W. G. Chilterns to Black Country (London: Festival of Britain Office/Collins, 1951) ASIN B0000CHW4Q
  • Hoskins, W. G. and Finberg, H. P. R. Devonshire Studies (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952)
  • Hoskins, W. G. The Making of the English Landscape (Leicester, 1955) ISBN 0-340-77020-1
  • Hoskins, W. G. Leicestershire: an illustrated essay on the history of the landscape. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957)
  • Hoskins, W. G. The Midland Peasant: The economic and social history of a Leicestershire village (1957) ASIN B0000CMN5O
  • Hoskins, W. G. Local History in England (Harlow: Longman, 1959; 2nd edition 1972; 3rd edition 1984) ISBN 0-582-48286-0
  • Hoskins, W. G. Devon and its People, (Exeter: A. Wheaton, 1959) ISBN 0-7153-4865-5
  • Hoskins, W. G. Two Thousand Years in Exeter, (Exeter: James Townsend, 1960) ISBN 1-86077-303-6
  • Hoskins, W. G. 'Foreword' in West, John. Village Records (London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1962) ISBN 0-85033-444-6
  • Hoskins, W. G. and Stamp, L. Dudley The Common Lands of England and Wales (London: Collins, 1963) ASIN B0000CLPBG
  • Hoskins, W. G. English Local History: the Past and the Future, An inaugural lecture (Leicester, 1966)
  • Hoskins, W. G. Old Devon (London: David & Charles, 1966) ISBN 0-7153-4049-2
  • Hoskins, W. G. Fieldwork in Local History (London: Faber & Faber, 1967) ISBN 0-571-18051-5
  • Hoskins, W. G. (ed.) History from the Farm (London: Faber & Faber, 1970) ISBN 0-571-09437-6
  • Hoskins, W. G. Exeter Militia List 1803 (Chichester: Phillimore, 1972)
  • Hoskins, W. G. The Age of Plunder: The England of Henry VIII 1500–1547 (London, 1976) ISBN 0-582-48544-4
  • Hoskins, W. G. English Landscapes (London: BBC, 1979) ISBN 0-563-17399-8
  • Hoskins, W. G. Devon (Tiverton: Devon, 1992) ISBN 1-86077-204-8
  • Hoskins, W. G. Trade and People in Exeter 1688–1800

External links




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