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Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: the View from the Stronghold

The fascinating and varied history of Lancaster Castle ranging from its darker days as a medieval stronghold through to life as a Category C prison is captured in an exciting new course that’s open to all.

Once a holding jail for the famous Lancashire Witches, the Castle, which now has a bright future as an exciting tourist attraction, will be the subject of a new, free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on FutureLearn, the social learning platform.

Lancaster University’s History Department has just announced details of its first-ever, web-based, short course which should attract interest from around the globe.

Registration is now open for ‘Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: the View from the Stronghold’. The course starts on Monday 29 October, taking an innovative approach to studying northern English history.

The subject matter draws on the Department’s wide-ranging historical expertise, whilst highlighting particular strengths in regional history and digital humanities.

It uses Lancaster Castle as a microcosm of broader trends in regional history across two millennia – from the Romans to the twentieth century.

The MOOC is organised and run by the Regional Heritage Centre (RHC) based in the History Department, with the assistance of a team of MOOC specialists from Lancaster University’s Information Systems Services.

The creation of the course has been supported and facilitated by the Duchy of Lancaster, the owner of Lancaster Castle.  Other organisations have also been involved, notably Lancashire Museums Service, who operate daily tours at the Castle.

Commenting on the initiative, Duchy Chief Finance Officer and lead for the Castle Chris Adcock said: “Lancaster Castle is a historic building of major international importance and interest. We are very pleased that the University is making its rich and complex history available to a wider audience and will be following the MOOC with interest in the months ahead.”

Director of the RHC Dr Fiona Edmonds added: “Lancaster Castle is an outstanding historical site, not only because it is so visually impressive, but also because its history is multi-layered. This course enables us to showcase the fascinating past of north-west England for a global audience”.

The course will include sections on:

  • The Roman coastal fort and its relationship to the northern frontier of the empire
  • The Norman Castle: its role in Anglo-Scottish warfare and the emergence of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • The Castle’s role as a prison for the Lancashire Witches, in the context of post-Reformation history
  • The Castle  as a debtors’ prison in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and prison reform
  • The impact of the First and Second World Wars on the Castle
  • The Castle’s importance to the region’s heritage.

By the end of the course, participants will have developed their familiarity with a long sweep of history in relation to one significant site and will be more able to understand the regional context of broader historical trends. They will have the chance to evaluate historical debates and to relate famous events and individuals to deeper social and political developments

There is no need for prior experience or formal qualifications to undertake the course. We expect that the Castle’s rich history means the course will have wide appeal, with participants from all over the world working together with help from our learning mentors.

The course will particularly appeal to:

  • People living in North West England who are keen to further their historical knowledge of the region
  • Lancastrians living elsewhere who retain a strong attachment to the county – perhaps particularly in the USA, Canada and Australia
  • Anyone with an interest in the broad sweep of British history, including those who mainly find out about the past through TV or radio programmes about history
  • People who are fascinated by castles!

For free registration please go to:

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