When one studies history, one comes across legends and myths that seem to transcend time itself. In England, there are two such legends. One, of course, is King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The other is of a rogue and his band of merry men, who “stole from the rich and gave to the poor”. Of course, I am speaking of none other than Robin Hood. When exploring Robin Hood, tons of questions come to mind. Who was Robin Hood? Was Robin Hood an actual person? How did his legend change over time? Stephen Basdeo, an Assistant Professor of History at Richmond University, dives into discovering the truth about Robin Hood in his latest book, “Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw”.
I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I grew up really enjoying tales of Robin Hood, so reading about the legend and how it came to be was delightful.
Basdeo explores two central concepts in this book, the historicity of Robin Hood and the historiography of the legend of Robin Hood. For casual readers, these terms may seem intimidating, however, Basdeo takes the time to explain the purpose of this book and what these terms mean. Historicity explores the historical authenticity of a person or event; in other words, if Robin Hood was a real person, who is the most likely person in history who could have been the original “Robin Hood”. Historiography is the study of the methods of how historians write history. When a historian writes a historiographical study about a certain topic, such as Robin Hood, they explore centuries of historical research and explains why past historians had the bias that they did towards a figure. Although what Basdeo is exploring the literature of Robin Hood in this historiographical study, he does explore how the story changed over 800 years in a very similar way.
Basdeo starts his study of Robin Hood by exploring who the actual Robin Hood might have been and why he believes that this man was Robin Hood. Readers then jump ahead to the 15th century when the first tales of the outlaw first appeared. It is here that we start to see Robin and his merry men becoming part of the culture and the history of England. Basdeo goes through each century, exploring the way different authors put their own spin on the story. As the centuries changed, so did the way the story of Robin Hood was told; from ballads to books and penny dreadfuls to films and eventually comics.
This was such a fun and insightful book to read. Basdeo is able to combine the history of each century with how that changed the Robin Hood narrative and a light, readable writing style. This book feels like you are having a casual conversation with Basdeo about Robin Hood, Maid Marian, the merry men, and the numerous opponents Robin fought. If you want a book that gives great insight into the legend of Robin Hood and how it came to be, I highly recommend you read, “Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw” by Stephen Basdeo.