Robin Hood

Nick Vincent reviews an enjoyable study of the legendary outlaw

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Reviewed by: Nick Vincent
Author: David Baldwin
Publisher: Amberley
Price (RRP): £9.99

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Like King Arthur or many of the more potent figures in history, Robin Hood inhabits the world of archetype somewhere between reality and make-believe.

All attempts to identify a ‘real’ Robin have failed. The best that can be said is that, perhaps as early as the 1220s, the name ‘Robin’ or ‘Robert Hood’ was popularly known, and that by the 1450s, Robin’s exploits, now more fully recorded in writing, had come to be associated with rival locations: Sherwood Forest versus Barnsdale, north of Doncaster.

David Baldwin supplies an excellent short survey both of the legends and the history, favouring dispassionate objectivity over wild hypothesis.

In his final chapters he seeks to identify the ‘real’ Robin Hood as Roger Godberd of Swannington in Leicestershire, an outlaw of the 1270s. But Godberd has many disqualifications.

His credentials have already been thoroughly tested by JC Holt and found wanting. He does not even bear the name Robert, let alone Robin.

Nonetheless, this is a decent book, generally reliable and, even when lured into the greenwood of speculation, a pleasure to read.

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Nick Vincent is professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia