[Read] Common People

Losing a job can lead directly to the workhouse or asylum and a life of penury and are uickly creeping into again with the destruction of the middle class around the world For anyone who has worked on family history there is a lot to find pleasurably familiar here the joy of making a big find meeting people in dusty libraries or record offices eager to discuss their latest hit the endless fascination of records and history and prying the truth out of legends and lost memories Light s forebears are all of our forebears a wastrels a few pious folks mostly of our forebears a few wastrels few pious folks mostly ordinary people struggling like mad to stay afloat in a world where a few wealthy parasites sneered about them and labeled them residue and who mostly vanished into the unmarked graves of paupers Not just an exceptional read but a very very important corrective which I don t really think she meant it to be to the kind of politics too Common Today The Sort That Lead Directly Back To The today the sort that lead directly back to the and the asylum and residue In my mind this book is exactly what family history should be Light recounts the history of her family not just through anecdotes and data taken from census records but she recreates the world of the working poor in which her family lived She Writing family histories has become such an industry over recent ears that it s easy to become cynical about them However I tend to like them along with TV programmes like Who do Blockchain Revolution you thinkou are Alison Light s history of her family is one of the best mainly because it does what it says on the tin and celebrates and values the lives of common people the poor migrant working class living from hand to mouth often spending periods in workhouses and ending up in lunatic asylums This is a fascinating picture of a range of working class trades ranging from farm labourers needle makers builders servants shoe makers sailors etc It shows the struggle and nobility of so many lives from birth to death as well as celebrating the strength and solidarity of slum communities and in particular the contribution of non conformist churches and chapels in the 19th century I ve done a little family tree investigating myself and uickly found that my Victorian ancestors left no trace I could find except their names on census records Too poor for a gravestone in the local churchyard and living in houses that have long been demolished I found it difficult to get close to themThat didn t stop me thinking about them and the sort of lives they would have led in the Suffolk villages they resided inAlison Light s book is about the investigation into her family tree and as a historian she was able to fill in so many of the gaps in the lives of her ancestors They too were the common people who despite leaving little trace all had their stories to tellLight s great grandmother was born and lived her first 8 ears in a Victorian Workhouse a pauper of the Parish It doesn t matter how much I read about these Workhouses it is still deeply upsetting to hear how the children and adults were treated For example some well meaning ladies wanted swings put outside the Workhouse so the children could get some exercise The swings were refused for two reasons that the exercise would increase the children s appetite so they would eat and that it would wear out the leather on their shoes fasterA couple of annoyances about the book sloppy editing in that there were errors in either the text or the family trees at the front of the book meaning that the dates and ages didn t always agree And why does a book published in England by Penguin books have American spellings throughou. D the country looking for work Original and elouent it is a timely rethinking of who the English were but ultimately it reflects on history itself and on our constant need to know who went before us and what we owe th.

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S and other diseases that were particularly pernicious in the slums the families often lived in Other family members spent time in work houses institutions for the real needy Others died forgotten in the crude mental hospitals of the times A few left for Australia usually as penal deportees but most spent their lives moving around the areas I ve listed above Curiously no one seemed to end up in LondonAlison Light s extended family from four or five generations back really is the story of four or five generations back really is the story of and the affects of the Industrial Revolution Her writing is always light and she tells the story of her people in almost a fictional way But her people were real as are their stories This is a really good book I ve just finished reading this excellent book by Alison Light Common People The History of an English Family published by Penguin 2014 Although mainly set around the Portsmouth area it is well worth reading no matter where our ancestors hail from The author examines her own family tree and makes observations on her own thought processes methods etc which will resonate with all family history buffs This is not a story of the rich and famous but of ordinary working class folks who had it hard and overcame difficult obstacles while making their way in the world some falling by the wayside and and overcame difficult obstacles while making their way in the world some falling by the wayside and up in the workhouse not because they were lazy or feckless but because of unemployment illness or injury the lack of welfare and of opportunities to better themselves She has looked deeply into the social conditions of the times and muses on how her perceptions of family members changed as she came to understand about their lives Moral judgement rushes in when evidence is scarce Edwin s flurry of jobs need not mean that he was a wastrel In London in the 1850s Henry Mayhew called the dockyard labourers this most wretched class mere brute force with brute appetites but he immediately contradicted himself by insisting that the human locomotive could be fashioned from anyone who wants a loaf and is wiling to work for it He found decayed and bankrupt master butchers master bakers publicans grocers old soldiers old sailorsclerks reduced to labouring in a market flooded with casual labour Far from being shiftless a skiver or shirker Edwin might have pulled out all the stops taking any job he could On one occasion Edwin admitted himself to the Portsea Union for four nights a common strategy when relief would only be given to a family if the man entered the workhouse It was also a way of saving money and food so that mother and children could survive and stay together But as the author points out poverty homogenizes family history humanizes She also discusses the nature of family stories that get embroidered in the telling that may or may not contain a nugget of truth Family history has its own mythologiesthe idea of the family as sufficient unto itself remains a powerful and appealing fantasy I think we will all recognize the temptation to embellish the worthy exciting notorious and to hide the less appealing mundane realities of our pastI commend this book to all family historians Looking back near the end of her uietly brilliant book Alison Light observes If anywhere can claim to be my ancestral home it is the workhouse Moved after her father s death to study her family history which she knew only in tiny fragments and the sorts of legends all families treasure Light looked back into the 19th century at her maternal and paternal forebears and opened a window onto the world we believe we have left behind a world where the tiniest of misfortunes sickness a death. Eries of journeys over two centuries across Britain and beyond Epic in scope and deep in feeling Common People is a family history but also a new kind of public history following the lives of the migrants who travelle.

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I loved this book largely because it is exactly the sort of book that I would love to write based on my own family history research The author manages to weave together not only the stories of her various lines of ancestry and in a way that doesn t leave our head spinning but also the very personal reflections on the whole process of delving Into Aspects Of The Past If Your Dotty Aunt The aspects of the past If our dotty aunt the whose stories run along the lines of and then Steel City Jews: A History of Pittsburgh and Its Jewish Community, 1840-1915 your great aunt Flora s cousin Flora married that Murphy fellow but we never learned what became of him butour uncle George is now a porter wrote a really excellent social history of the English workhouse poor Common People would be it She s an excellent writer and her ancestors are fascinating but the sudden shifts in perspective from one relative and one era and one location to another every sentence or so will make ou nuts My cousin gave this to me for my birthday knowing my love of family history It s a beautiful book by a scholar who understands the modern English working classes and applies her scholarship to her own family history One of the difficulties of family histories is that they tend to look for the hints of prominence the ones who made a splash married an earl invented a widget This history tells a lot of stories but doesn t succumb to that temptation The stories are moving and rich sad in the recurring ebb of fortunes that lands so many of them in the dreaded workhouse but also full of survivals and thrivings Historian Alison Light provides an excellent and readable venture into her own family s history deftly demonstrating how one incorporates social history local history religious history and to make ancestors come alive She provides several very uotable phrases scattered thoughout the volume certain to resonate with researchers adhering to the genealogical proof standard My biggest complaint pertains to the invisible endnotes system employed by the editors readers deserve to know when something editors Readers deserve to know when something being cited The acceptable way of doing this is to provide a numbered footnote or endnote I find the method employed by the editors lacking In some places the author s aversion to religion manifested itself through condescending remarks In other places where the opportunity presented itself she refrained from such comments This restraint maintained a bias free environment in those portions of the narrative Overall the book provided a commendable example in family history writing Highly recommended I suppose when we go delving into our family histories we hope to find the odd billionaire a pirate a famous actor or at least someone interesting Interesting and rich is a good combination But most of us like British author Alison Light find solid citizens who live fairly uiet lives passing along from one generation to another A family that is actually a combination of tree limbs that come together to make one individual We are a combination of all those who came before us Alison Light in her thoughtful book Common People gives us brief histories of her forebearsLight s ancestors really were common people Not an earl or pirate or rich guy among them Most were economically of the working class or sometimes lower in bad times while some made inroads into the British middle class Her people on both maternal and paternal sides rode the wave of the economies of Victorian and 20th century England Coming from Ireland Wales Birmingham Portsmouthand rural areas in southern England they were often tossed in times of economic and societal need Large families regularly lost members oung and old to tuberculosi. Family history is a massive phenomenon of our times but what are we after when we go in search of our ancestors Beginning with her grandparents Alison Light moves between the present and the past in an extraordinary Common People