18th century Robin Hood 'sequel' casts outlaw as corrupt establishment figure
Published 09/08/2015 | 12:43
A forgotten 18th century text about the fearless outlaw Robin Hood has revealed he was not always regarded as well by people in the past as he is today.
PhD student Stephen Basdeo unearthed the paper - previously overlooked by scholars - which reads as if it was a sequel to the story of the hero who robs from the rich to give to the poor. In it, Hood is a corrupt, establishment figure.
In the story, the year is 1202, and the renegade has been pardoned by King John and has been made one of his Ministers of State.
Hood, having turned his back on doing good, and has become one of the most corrupt and embezzling of the ministers. The story reveals the Duke of Lancaster's efforts to expose Hood's misdeeds to the King.
Mr Basdeo, who studies at Leeds Trinity University, is working on a thesis about how Robin Hood was depicted in the 18th and 19th centuries and came across a reference to the text while reading a book on political ballads.
In the footnotes there was a mention of the title Little John's Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster, which experts in the 20th Century had thought was a plagiarism of another, well-known book, so it had not been analysed closely before.
He said: "As soon as I read the footnote, I tracked down the text and found it at the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library in Leeds.
"The discovery is significant because, combined with my other research into 18th century Robin Hood texts, it nuances our understanding of how the legend developed over time, and illustrates that the famous outlaw was not as popular with people in past ages as he is today."
Following his discovery, the student has been asked to produce an edited version of the text for a new peer-reviewed journal which the International Association for Robin Hood Studies is launching next year.
He praised his supervisors at Leeds Trinity University, saying they pushed him to go beyond his original remit.
He said: "It was this motivation that actually led me to make this pioneering discovery, which in turn may change the mind-set of many Robin Hood scholars and academics around the world."
Experts have long debated whether Robin Hood was a real person. The modern consensus is that the legend was based in part on a historical figure, but there is still much doubt over his identity.