Research by economists at the University of Warwick has suggested that Medieval England was far more prosperous than previously thought, with an average income that was more than double the average per capita income of today’s poorest nations. According to the paper British Economic Growth 1270-1870, by the end of the medieval period, the majority of the British population could afford a diet that included meat, dairy products and ale, as well as occasional luxuries. Just some of today’s countries believed to be poorer than Medieval England are Niger, Sierra Leone and Haiti.
Meanwhile, Oxford City Council has given the Ashmolean Museum the go-ahead for a £5 million revamp of its Egyptian galleries, as well as agreeing plans for a new fifth gallery. The museum, which dates back to the 17th century, was reopened by the queen in November last year following a £61 million refurbishment.
Elsewhere, a copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America has made auction history after it sold for more than £7 million at Sotheby’s. The 19th century tome, now dubbed the world’s most expensive book, is one of only 119 copies in existence, and contains 1,000 life-sized illustrations of nearly 500 breeds painted by Audubon during his travels across America, and took the artist 12 years to complete.
And finally, a 2,000-year-old tree, known as the Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, which, according to legend, sprang from the wooden staff of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who helped Jesus off the cross, has been hacked down by vandals. The tree was chopped down during the English Civil Wars, but secret cuttings of the original were taken and planted around the town of Glastonbury, one of which was planted at the site of the first tree over 50 years ago. According to experts, the tree – known as the Crategus Monogyna Bi Flora – had originated from the Middle East and flowered at Christmas and Easter.