June 6, 2014

RAHS & PHA WORKSHOP: What‘s in a Name?

Place names, or toponyms, fill our maps and street signs and place histories, but how often do we really give them much thought? We often look upon a landscape and read it, seeing the road and street patterns, the towns and parks, the valleys and hills, but how often to we see the ‘toponymyscape’?

Any landscape, in the town or country, will be composed of complex layers of place names. Not all place names are created at once. A great many place names have vanished or been forgotten. Others have changed or gradually altered or been moved to other locations. One place may be known to different groups of people by different names. New place names are always being invented. Place names form dynamic layers in the landscape, and connect to wider social and historical patterns.

If we can read these layers of place names, and treat them as historical records in their own right, we gain another tool for researching local and place histories. This CPD activity will introduce historians to this class of historical records looking at the sort of questions that can be asked of place names, the sorts of records that can be researched for place name histories, ways to discern layers of place names in a landscape, the ways that the idea of ‘place’ can include not just localities but also buildings, under-water fishing grounds and other such sites, and how the historic significance of a place name can be assessed.

Public historian Bruce Baskerville will present the workshop.

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