Leicester History


A brief history of Leicester

Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back 2000 years. Ancient Roman pavements and baths remain in Leicester from its early settlement as Ratae Corieltauvorum, a Roman military outpost in a region inhabited by the Celtic Corieltauvi tribe.

Following the demise of Roman society, the early medieval Ratae Corieltauvorum is shrouded in obscurity, but when the settlement was captured by the Danes it became one of five fortified towns important to the Danelaw. The name Leicester is thought to derive from the words castra of the Ligore, meaning a camp on the River Legro, an early name for the River Soar. Leicester appears in the Domesday Book as Ledecestre. Leicester continued to grow throughout the Early Modern period as a market town, although it was the Industrial Revolution that facilitated an unparalled process of unplanned urbanisation in the area.

Famous inhabitants of Leicester include Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for just nine days in July 1553 before being executed and Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man. Obliged to earn a living by selling goods on the street, Merrick was constantly harassed by local children, twice ending up in the Leicester Union Workhouse.

The University

The University of Leicester is a research-led university. It has scientific research groups in the areas of astrophysics, biochemistry and genetics. The techniques used in Genetic fingerprinting were invented and developed at Leicester in 1985 by Sir Alec Jeffreys.

Literary connections include Kingsley Amis, who is believed to have partially based his novel Lucky Jim on Leicester University. Amis is alleged to have been inspired to write the book when visiting his friend Phillip Larkin who was working at the university as a librarian at the time. Malcolm Bradbury also used Leicester as a basis for his satire on university life, Eating People Is Wrong.