The dramatic story of Richard III, one of England’s most notorious and enigmatic monarchs, captured the world’s attention in February 2013 when the Grey Friars Research Team, led by the University of Leicester, identified “Skeleton 1” as Richard, a King whose remains had been lost for over 500 years. Last week, to coincide with King Richard’s reinternment at Leicester Cathedral, Wiley released the only official book by the team of experts who uncovered these remains: The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered., which provides an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how the bones were discovered.
I have been part of this book’s publishing journey since the proposal first crossed my editor’s desk in early 2013. Although I’m based in our US office, by that time it seemed like everyone in the world was talking about the amazing discovery beneath a Leicester parking lot: a story that brought together disciplines across the sciences and humanities in a breathtaking, interdisciplinary project to find and identify the remains of a long-lost king of England.
In the world of academic research, there are often debates about the value of the Humanities in a world where STEM appears to reign supreme. That narrative is part of what makes The Bones of a King so close to my heart and such a remarkable story.This isn’t just the story of how we found a lost monarch. This is the story of how the Humanities and the Sciences worked together to make an incredible discovery.
None of this would have been possible without historians and archaeologists, who identified the most likely location where Richard III might have been buried – not only in what building, but where that building would have stood, and how that mapped to the Leicester of the 21st century. Likewise, it would not have been possible without the geneticists and osteologists who identified and studied the remains and the DNA contained therein. Nor would it have been possible without genealogists to trace the Plantagenet family tree to present-day descendants in order to compare the DNA for shared lineage.
There are so many other experts, scholars, and scientists who played pivotal roles in this discovery that there isn’t space to list them all here. But what’s so incredible about this discovery, beyond its cultural impact, is the way it shows us that there isn’t some vast chasm between the Humanities and the Sciences. It demonstrates the way these different disciplines and skill sets can support and strengthen each other, and how, when all of these specializations come to bear on a single project, it can lead to unprecedented opportunities to share their work with the world.
And for the Grey Friars Research Team, share they have: The Bones of a King was launched on March 21st for Leicester University’s King Richard III Day, a celebration of the history, scholarship, and science that went into this discovery. The day opened up a wide span of faculty departments involved in Richard’s discovery and analysis, to provide a series of events that included public lectures, hands-on activities, 3-D skeletal printing demonstrations and medieval music and food. The intention was to bring the people of Leicester and international visitors, young and old, closer to the reality of the discovery, rather than just a removed news story on the TV, firing the imagination and making academia approachable.
We are proud to be the publisher of a book that shows how we can tear down the walls that are so often perceived between the Humanities and the Sciences – and not only that, but to bring researchers, scholars, and scientists’ daily work into a public forum, to show the general public how interdisciplinary collaboration is key to furthering knowledge and discovery.