Victoria County History
The Victoria History of the Counties of England, commonly known as the Victoria County History or the VCH, is an English history project which began in 1899 and was dedicated to Queen Victoria with the aim of creating an encyclopaedic history of each of the historic counties of England.
From its inception, responsibility for writing the volumes was delegated to local editors for each individual county. The county editors work under the direction of a general editor, following a uniform format and style. From 1902 the joint general editors were A. Henry Doubleday and William Page. Doubleday left in 1904, leaving Page as sole general editor until his death in 1934. Page was succeeded by L.F. Salzman, who remained general editor until 1949.
The first VCH volume was published in 1901, and publication continued slowly throughout the twentieth century, although in some counties it has come to a halt, especially during the First World War and again in the 1970s. Some inactive counties have recently been reactivated.
There are now more than 230 VCH volumes, with about three new volumes published per year. Each is published with a red cover, and they are therefore sometimes known as "the big red books". When the Institute of Historical Research published a short history of the project to mark the 75th anniversary of taking it over, it was titled "The Little Big Red Book".
From 1909 until 1931 Frederick Smith, later 2nd Viscount Hambleden, was the VCH's major sponsor. In February 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the VCH £3,374,000 to fund the England's Past for Everyone project.
Structure and content of the county histories
In general, the histories begin with one or more volumes of general studies of the County as a whole, (including major themes, for example: "religious history, agriculture, industries, population (with summary tables of decennial census totals 1801–1901), and Domesday Book...)". These volumes are followed by ones consisting of detailed historical surveys of each Hundred, Wapentake (discussed in separate Riding (country subdivision) volumes) and Ward (country subdivision), parish by parish. At first, ancient ecclesiastical parishes formed the unit of investigation, but "since the mid-1950s the VCH parish is the civil parish, the modern successor of the ancient parishes or of townships within them. Large towns are dealt with as a whole, including, since the 1960s, built-up areas of adjoining, formerly rural parishes."  See: Civil parishes in England.
Tiller points out that, in its first phase of operations, 1899–1914 and during the inter-war period, the VCH was "very much a gentleman's history, manifesting the familiar concerns with manorial history, advowson, parish churches, charities, Roman and earlier remains". However, "since 1947 the pace has changed..." and the "format of the parish histories has been modernized by expansion to include economic and social history, the history of population, landscape and the physical growth of settlement, education, religious nonconformity, and local government."
A map showing the publication status appears on the VCH website.
Completed county histories
Some of the county histories have been completed. For each of these, the number of volumes published and the date of completion is as follows:
- Bedfordshire (3 volumes) 1972
- Berkshire (4 volumes) 1972
- Buckinghamshire (4 volumes)
- Cambridgeshire (10 volumes) 2002
- Hampshire (5 volumes) 1973
- Hertfordshire (4 volumes) 1971
- Huntingdonshire (3 volumes) 1974
- Lancashire (8 volumes) 1993
- Rutland (2 volumes) 1975
- Surrey (4 volumes) 1967
- Warwickshire (8 volumes) 1969
- Worcestershire (4 volumes) 1971
- Yorkshire (North Riding) (2 volumes) 2002
Counties in progress
For each uncompleted county history on which work is continuing (i.e.: "active" in VCH terminology), the number of volumes published and the dates of the most recent are as follows:
- Cornwall (1 volume in 2 parts) 1925
- County Durham (4 volumes) 2005
- Cumberland (2 volumes) 1968
- Derbyshire (2 volumes) 1907
- Essex (10 volumes) 2001
- Gloucestershire (11 volumes) 1976
- Herefordshire (1 volume) 1975
- Kent (3 volumes) 1974
- Leicestershire (5 volumes) 1988
- Middlesex (12 volumes) 2004
- Northamptonshire (5 volumes) 2002
- Nottinghamshire (2 volumes) 1970
- Oxfordshire (16 volumes) 2011
- Shropshire (11 volumes) 1985
- Somerset (10 volumes) 2010
- Staffordshire (13 volumes) 2008
- Sussex (11 volumes) 1987
- Westmorland (0 volumes)
- Wiltshire (18 volumes) 2011
- East Riding of Yorkshire (7 volumes) 2002
- Yorkshire (West Riding)
- Cheshire (6 volumes) 2005
- Devon (1 volume) 1906
- Dorset (2 volumes) 1968
- Lincolnshire (1 volume)
- London (1 volume) 1974
- Norfolk (2 volumes) 1975
- Suffolk (2 volumes) 1975
- Yorkshire (general volumes & city of York) (4 volumes)
Counties with no published volumes
(produced its own, non-VCH, history in 15 volumes, published by the Northumberland County History Committee, completed in 1940)
- William Henry Page (General Editor 1904–34)
- Louis Francis Salzman (General Editor 1934–49)
- Ralph Pugh (General Editor 1949–77)
- Christopher Elrington (General Editor 1977–94)
Notable county editors
- Peter Ditchfield (former Berkshire editor)
- Mary Lobel (former Oxfordshire editor)
- J. Horace Round (former Essex editor)
- John William Willis-Bund (former Worcestershire editor)
- Lewis, Brian (2008). "William Page (1861–1934), general editor of the Victoria County History 1902–34". Making History.
- 75 years at the IHR, accessed 24 May 2009.
- Tiller, Kate (1992). English local history: an introduction. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. viii,247, p.18–19. ISBN 0862999588.
- Victoria County History. "VCH Counties". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
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