Filed in the following archives
After her grandfather’s death, a young woman returns to his farm in Yorkshire. At his desk she finds the book he left unfinished when he died. Part story, part scholarship, his eccentric history of England moves from the founding of the printing press into virtual reality, linking four journeys, separated by the centuries, of four great men. The exiled Edward IV lands in England and marches on London for one final attempt to win back the throne; Tsar Peter the Great, implausibly disguised as a carpenter, follows his own retinue around frozen London; the former African slave Olaudah Equiano takes his book-tour down a Welsh coal-mine; and Herbert, Lord Kitchener, mysteriously disappears at sea in 1916.
These are the stories she remembers him telling her, and others too – about medieval miracles and EU agricultural subsidies; old people and fallen kings; homemade fireworks and invented dogs; Arctic ice cores, sunk ships, drowning horses, salt, sperm, carbon and miners. The history of great men loses its way in the stories of ordinary great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, including the historian’s own.