Could renegade Robin have turned corrupt?

He was the outlaw who famously robbed the rich to give to the poor.

The document unearthed at Brotherton Library, Leeds. Photo: Leeds Trinity University/PA

But a forgotten 18th century text about Robin Hood has revealed he was not always regarded as well by people in the past as he is today.

PhD student Stephen Basdeo, who is studying at Leeds Trinity University, unearthed the paper - previously overlooked by scholars - which reveals Robin to be a corrupt, establishment figure.

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In the story, discovered in the Special Collections of Brotherton Library in Leeds, the year is 1202, and the renegade has been pardoned by King John and has been made one of his Ministers of State.

Hood, having turned his back on doing good, has become one of the most corrupt and embezzling of the ministers. The story reveals the Duke of Lancaster’s efforts to expose Hood’s misdeeds to the King.

Mr Basdeo is working on a thesis about how Robin Hood was depicted in the 18th and 19th centuries and came across a reference to the text while reading a book on political ballads.

In the footnotes there was a mention of the title Little John’s Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster, which experts in the 20th Century had thought was a plagiarism of another, well-known book, so it had not been analysed closely before.

He said: “The discovery is significant because, combined with my other research into 18th century Robin Hood texts, it nuances our understanding of how the legend developed over time, and illustrates that the famous outlaw was not as popular with people in past ages as he is today.”