It has been claimed that Hitchin is one of the most researched small market towns in England. Certainly, the Hitchin Historical Society has been extremely active in publishing the results of its members’ researches since its creation in 1977 and many of these publications are detailed, thoroughly documented investigations of aspects of the town’s history.
However, it has to be said that there has been no undertaking to supersede Reginald Hine’s History of Hitchin, published in two volumes in 1927 and 1929. For many years, this has been regarded as the definitive work on the town’s history and Hine as Hitchin’s foremost historian.
This is no doubt responsible for the apparent unwillingness of the town’s many amateur historians to take on the challenge of ‘supplementing’ or ‘replacing’ his account. However, in recent years, questions have been raised about his use of sources, his inadequate documentation and his willingness to employ a mode of presentation more akin to storytelling than to academic caution. Nevertheless, there remains a need for a modern synthesis of the town’s history (and, indeed, its archaeology).