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The flagship publication of English local history has been the Victoria County History (VCH). Founded in 1899, with the ambitious self-confidence of a late Victorian national project, it aims to publish consistently researched histories of every parish and town in England. The VCH began on a subscription basis, and its early volumes reveal elements of an antiquarian, county history lineage. They used predominantly central records, with a strong emphasis on the medieval, and covered manorial descents, landholding and ecclesiastical institutions in particular detail. Entries were organised by the ancient sub-division of the county, the hundred, and then by parish. This remained largely the format until world war two. Counties like Berkshire whose VCH was published in this phase have a valuable and consistent account of difficult-to-research aspects of local history which underpin many elements of local studies, but they lack the wider coverage of sources and subjects achieved by the VCH project post-war. The Vale of the White Horse is complete within the Berkshire volumes of the VCH with the parish and town histories available in volumes three and four. These, together with part of volume two relating to religion and hospitals, are available online via the VCH website.

Later VCH volumes, which include most of the Oxfordshire VCH, show a development which, within the constraints of its format of separate parish histories, reflects the wider expansion of local studies (see The New Local History section). Parish histories now draw on local documents, including for example parish and  probate records, on landscape and oral history, cover up to and including the 20th century, and take in economic and social history, farming and industry, religious nonconformity, settlement, population and local government. The Oxfordshire VCH is still in progress, expected by 2011 to be three-quarters complete. Full details of each volume already published and those currently being developed are available at the VCH website.

Henley VCH.JPG 

Many volumes are available to be viewed on-line via this web site. In addition to the traditional ‘big red books’ of the main series, two paperbacks on Burford and Henley were published in 2008 and 2009 

Where VCH volumes have been published they will be an essential early point of reference for all researchers, both to read their histories and to use the extensive indexing and referencing which provides a starting point for further research.

Published VCH volumes for Oxfordshire can be located at the Oxfordshire Record Office,  Centre for Oxfordshire Studies Library and many local libraries.

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