Leader: The king is dead

The announcement that the human remains found beneath a car park in Leicester were those of Richard III excited great interest. And yet, beyond offering anatomical corroboration of Shakespeare’s description of England’s last Plantagenet king as “deformed, unfinished”, it is not clear what the historical significance of the find is.

More interesting are the arguments about where the body should be buried. Some say that, as the last monarch of the House of York, Richard should be interred in the north; others call for a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey. This is a struggle over an important chapter in our national story and a reminder that, as the historian Richard J Evans argued in the New Statesman last year, history is “endlessly contentious and argumentative”.

Our history books special this week offers more evidence to show that that spirit of argument and contention is in rude health in this country.