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Spotlight on the British Association for Local History


Family and local history are intertwined like branches, and you can research more about your ancestors’ lives - where they lived, what they wore, how they were schooled, whether they were rich or poor - as Rachel Bellerby discovered when she spoke to Gill Draper of the British Association for Local History. 

The British Association for Local History (BALH) is an active umbrella organisation for individuals and groups interested in local history and the lives of their forebears. It is a national charity which promotes local history and serves local historians, through a programme of talks, conferences, visits and a prestigious annual lecture.

Local historians range from individuals and members of local history societies around the UK, to professional historians such as archivists and university lecturers; all are served by the Association and invited to take part in its events.

BALH has members and events all across the UK and its publications cover the whole country. It has an insurance scheme for member societies provided by Towergate to cover meetings, walks, talks, visits, collections of archive material, etc.

The website provides information on BALH’s insurance scheme and much more. The education section, for example, takes you to online guides to researching the impact of World War I on people’s lives, from children, schools, women and medical caregivers to farmers and sources for military history. Under presentation materials, visitors can find a flavour of talks such as senior archivist Richard Wiltshire’s on business records at the London Metropolitan Archives. There is also a section on how to set up a local history group, including advice on how to get started, market the society and attract new members.


Join BALH and every quarter you will receive its magazine Local History News and its journal The Local Historian which includes case studies, reviews and articles on how to find and use different classes of records to explore the human past. BALH also publishes a range of research guides and its popular Internet Sites for Local Historians: a directory. This covers over 600 websites, most of which are free, of great interest to family historians, and indexed by places, people and subjects. The 2017 edition is published in June.

Every year, BALH holds Local History Day in London or cities around the country such as Manchester, Birmingham and York. On 3 June, 2017, members will hear from Alan Crosby and other expert speakers on research agendas and practical issues in housing and local history, and social mobility and migration in the Middle Ages - vital context for early genealogy. Professor Chris Dyer will present the BALH annual lecture, titled ‘Local societies on the move – migration and social mobility in the Middle Ages’. The event will also incorporate the Association’s 2017 local history awards, which will be cover three categories: research & publication, society newsletter and personal achievement.

To book for this event, visit the website.

BALH members also speak at family history fairs from local and county level, to Who Do You Think You are Live!

 How to join

Annual UK membership is £30/ £25 student/ £42.50 overseas (for other categories, see the website). Subscriptions run for a calendar year from 1 January and anyone joining after this date receives any publications from that year which they have missed.

To join, or for more information, download an application form from the website, or apply online.

(Images from top a Personal Award winner at BALH’s Local History Day; some of the award winners at last year's awards)

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07/04/2017 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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