From October 2007, The University of Nottingham’s School of History will launch a one year Robin Hood studies course in its MA programme. The notorious outlaw, who according to legend lived in Sherwood Forest, has captured our imagination for centuries, and has been immortalized in numerous films and television programmes, including Disney’s classic 1973 film adaptation. The new MA is believed to be the first course of its kind in the world.
Impact spoke to the Medieval History lecturer leading the course, Dr Robert Lutton, who explained the reasons, aims and challenges behind the new MA pathway. With Nottingham and Sherwood Forest featuring heavily in the earliest Robin Hood stories, Lutton believes that Nottingham University will be ‘a fitting home’ for the new MA pathway. He went on to say that he aims to establish Nottingham University as the ‘centre for advanced study’ in Robin Hood and the period in which the stories emerged.
The course will entail students exploring the earliest accounts of the legendary character through ballads, stories and plays, as well as having access to rare fifteenth century manuscripts. They will also investigate why this figure has remained so resonant in our culture. As well as this, students will be encouraged to compare the various depictions of Robin Hoods character and to ask “searching questions about the relationships between popular culture and history” and the result of this collision. The university has been described to be the “perfect environment” for this study due to the apt setting of the university’s locality; the natural interest and warm affiliation students have for this character as well as the department’s particular strength in medieval history; Nottingham has a long tradition of researching society in late twelfth century England and Normandy.
However, there are only fragments of evidence that point to an actual historical figure, and so mystery still surrounds the issue of whether a ‘real’ Robin Hood ever existed. For Lutton however, it is ‘what these Robin Hood stories mean for ordinary people’ and ‘why they have become so famous’ that are the ‘really interesting questions’ to investigate. A course sure to be embraced by many, The University of Nottingham is adding yet another string to its bow
BEN DAVIES AND GEORGINA BREACH