22 September 2016
Local Societies in England before the Industrial Revolution by David Hey
Much respected family and local history stalwart David Hey sadly passed away during the production of this multidisciplinary book, in which he studies the lives of our ordinary English ancestors through the combined lenses of family, local and landscape history.
David, who was Emeritus Professor of Local and Family History at the University of Sheffield and wrote How Our Ancestors Lived, The Oxford Guide to Family History, The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History and Family Names and Family History, clearly illustrates that employing a local or ‘micro-history’ approach to historical research turns up a wealth of evidence. In turn, this provides a detailed picture of the nation’s history at ground level, where our ordinary ancestors lived their lives. His focus is on the differing nature of the various local societies found throughout England back to the Middle Ages. Understanding the administrative framework of our forebears’ lives, starting with what they called the ‘country’ – in other words their local neighbourhood up to the nearest market town – is the key to unlocking how they viewed their world; how they ‘ticked’. Even now, we learn, we can find distinctive core surnames in these areas, along with evidence that these families shaped local cultures and traditions. It was not until the Industrial Revolution, we are told, that ordinary people gave themselves regional identities, such as Lancastrian or Devonian – before then, many English were unaware of people beyond their locality.
By studying English surnames, place-names, the development of rural and urban environments (from farming to houses, churches and cathedrals), linguistics, culture and more, David provides real insight into England’s changing past societies, as well as a wonderful legacy.
ISBN: 9781474281645. RRP £19.99, paperback. Bloomsbury Academic.