School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Take a virtual walk into July 1618

On 8 July 2013, Scottish Historian Anna Groundwater spoke on BBC Radio Scotland about how social media is bringing history alive today.

[The recording will be available via the link below for a week afterwards. Anna's interview can be heard 1 hour 34 seconds in, until 1 hour 49 seconds].

The Research Fellow, who is affiliated with our Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, is working with Professor James Loxley, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and scholars from Nottingham, in a project which uses Twitter, Facebook and a blog to recreate an historic journey.

Travelling with Ben Jonson

That journey is the 71-day trek from London to Edinburgh, undertaken in July 1618 by influential poet and dramatist Ben Jonson - a favourite of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) and friend to William Shakespeare.

The researchers will track Jonson’s daily itinerary in real time, from 8 July to 5 October, drawing from events in a narrative of the journey, apparently penned by an anonymous travelling companion.

The project will highlight some of the many places and historic sites mentioned along the 450-mile route - including inns that are still in business today and properties now looked after by English Heritage, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.

‘Treasure trove’ for historians

Ben Jonson wrote an account of his ‘foot voyage’ shortly after his return from Edinburgh in 1619.

This work was subsequently destroyed in a fire before it could be circulated or printed and the particulars of the expedition - his route, how long it took him, whom he met with along the way - was lost.

In 2009, however, Professor Loxley discovered a narrative of the voyage in the Aldersey collection of family papers in Chester, apparently penned by a travelling companion of Jonson.

Researchers say his account is a treasure trove of detail not only for students of Jonson but also for anyone with an interest in the cultural history of early Stuart Britain.