Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Reading Journal - entry #6 - Lance's Travels - UK by Lance Leuven

In our last entry of The Reading Journal, we introduced Lance Leuven's new book, Lance's Travels - UK. Our read so far took us on an adventurous journey through the villages of the United Kingdom, and offered wonderful, intriguing historical accounts for each region visited. As we said before, Leuven's guide books are unique, as they not only retell history but interweave in them tid-bits of the author's personal encounters as well.

Did you know that a large ancient yew tree called the Ankerwycke Yew in the meadows of Runnymede, 20 miles west of central London, which sits opposite on the bank of the River Thames bore witness to the signing of the Magna Carter in June 1215? ( A document that helped shape American history and that was important in the forming of the constitution was not formulated in an office or courtroom as one would expect, but instead in a meadow by the River Thames!  This document was important because England's legal system became the model under which many countries developed their own.

Does the tree have any particular significance? Although the tree may be of little importance, Leuven, nevertheless went looking for it, and found that ironically, it was under this same tree that King Henry VIII and his lover Anne Boleyn later had their love rendezvous in the 1530s! If we were writing a novel, the irony here would probably be the starting point of the novel, to show how kings sometimes easily bend and sway under their own selfish desires, which is the very reason why laws are put into effect, to protect the people and the kingdom. The tree bore witness to both incidents in history. To do away with monarch absolutism, barons ordered one unscrupulous monarch (King John) to sign the constitution into effect. He signed to protect his greedy interest - his crown; while centuries later, the other (King Henry VIII) overshadowed the constitution and its significance in his drive to have what was otherwise forbidden.

Nevertheless, these periods in history were significant and helped to shape the legal system under which England is now governed. As a result of the signing of the constitution and the break away from Rome, England's constitutional monarchy was firmly established, and royal absolutism became a thing of the past for the country and her colonies.

In reading Lance's Travels - UK, we paused several times to ponder about earth's landscapes. In the countless generations that existed before ours, many dramatical events have unfolded within the same landscapes. While we're forging and embarking on our own history, many have created their own in the same place! Quite a sobering thought when you think of how many feet and good/bad intentions have paved the same pathway thoughout history. If we were to line up the generations that had tread that path, each person's historical encounter with that tree would tell a different story! Afterall, isn't that what history is all about?

Happy Reading!

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