Author Topic: Social History Sources - General UK  (Read 2880 times)

Offline Gadget

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Social History Sources - General UK
« on: Tuesday 23 May 06 14:25 BST (UK) »
This attempt at listing some useful Social History sources came out of two recent threads:

Topic: Social/Domestic History Sources - 19th century,153401.0.html
Topic: Autobiographies of Working People 1820-1920 - perhaps one of yours?,157459.0.html 

Biker volunteeered to list resources for London

Topic: BOOKLIST: London Social History,157816.0.html

and I drew the short straw and have collected together some general  resources for the UK as a whole. These have been gleaned from my own readings, other Rootschatters and web searching.

Many of these are specific to England or England and Wales, although some refer to the whole of the UK. There is also a need for sources for the other countries of the UK . I have deliberately avoided listing specific Local Histories and occupational references. It is by no means a complete list and I would be grateful for any other recommendations.

Web Resources

The Victorian Web

Poverty, Poor Law and Workhouses

Vision of Britain

Institute of Historical Reseach - still being developed

Various demographic data

For everything Georgian

For fashion

Women (Hastings)

Domestic Servants (Mrs Beeton's guide)

The museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading
Their Database

Shire Books Soc Hist listings

Fiction: many sites including
George Gissing

Also - from Annie:


Thompson, F M L (ed)  The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750-1950
A three volume classic 'standard reference' collection of papers by experts in various aspects of British Social History. These volumes offer comprehensive accounts of regional differences; Family and Economy; and development and change in British social institutions over the 200 year period. Perhaps a bit tedious but thorough.

Trevelyan, G M English Social History (Chaucer to Queen Victoria)
Another classic.

Cole, G D H & Postgate, R  The Common People 1746-1946
One of my favourite general Social History texts - probably the first one I read! It offers an interesting but brief account of  English regional life before the Industrial Revolution. It then discusses in detail the various economic and social factors which impacted on the lives of 'common people'. It does tend to focus on movements and institutions rather than individual lives though.

Mathias, P  The First Industrial Nation: an Economic History of Britain 1700-1914
Another classic book which explores British economic development during the Industrial Revolution. Again focusing on macro-history (economic growth; agriculture; trade and industry; labour and transport) rather than social life.

Laslett, P  The World  We Have Lost
Yet another classic. This time focusing on the period after the Middle Ages and before the Industrial Revolution. It is a detailed account of family, community and class in pre-industrial England. Worth re-reading.

Wrightson, K  English Society 1580-1680
Wrightson examines continuity and change in class and community groupings in 16th and 17th century England; highlighting the very different experiences of various social groups.

Perkin, H  The Origins of Modern English Society
Another classic offering a description and explanation of how England changed from a predominantly rural landed aristocracy to an urban class-based society. Perkins style is very 'readable'.

Books .....contd/....
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Offline Gadget

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« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 23 May 06 14:26 BST (UK) »

Briggs, A  Victorian Cities
A detailed investigation of the social, political and economic development of six cities during the Victorian age - Manchester; Leeds; Birmingham; Middlesborough; Melbourne; and, of course, London.

Thompson, E  The Making of the English Working Class
A thought provoking discussion of class formation and class conflict in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. Some interesting individual accounts.

Perkin, H  The Age of the Railway
A similar approach to the previous work by Perkin, mentioned above. This time he focuses on the development of the railways and their importance to England's rapid industrial and social change during the 19th century. Very readable.

Harris, J  Private Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870-1914
Not yet read.

David, S  Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire
This book has only recently been published and I haven't read it yet. Reviews suggest that it provides novel perspectives and insights into the development and management of the British Empire. Worth reading by those whose  ancestors were colonists or served overseas in armies or civil service.

Hill, C  The World Turned Upside Down
Focused on the various (non-religious)  radical groups that arose in the mid-17th century - Diggers, Ranters, Levellers, etc. and their questioning of the satus quo. A change from the usual works covering  this period which tend to concentrate on the 'triumph of Protestantism'.

Stone, L  The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800
A study of the transformation of the family from the extended, land-based group to the smaller, nuclear family. A discussion of how these changes impacted on marriage, gender roles, sexual behaviour, contraception and child rearing.

Rodgers, R  Housing in Urban Britain 1780-1914
See Biker's list

Flanders, J  The Victorian House
See Biker's list.  One review states: "There remains a small quibble: the book should really be titled 'The Middle Class House of Victorian London'. We are not taken to any provincial homes"

Clarke, P  Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-2000
An examination of 20th century social, economic and political change in Britain.

Quin, T  Tales of Old Country Farmers
I'm waiting for this to be delivered. It promises to be and interesting book about rural life gathered from the older generation of farmers.

Burnett, J Useful Toil
See Biker's list and review

Nicholson, S  A Victorian Household
An personal account of life in a middle class, late Victorian/Edwardian family. The book is based on the diaries of Marion Sambourne, wife of the Punch illustrator.

Robertson, U A  The Illustrated History of the Housewife 1650-1950
Not yet read. An examination of the changing role of the housewife. Looks worth a read!

Waterson, M The Servants Hall: A domestic history of Erddig

Haggett, B E Life Below Stairs

Pimlott, J A R The Englishman's Holiday
I'm trying to get hold of this - I think it's out of print.  Recommended in Perkin.

Crawford, A  Letters of Medieval Women
I have just started reading this collection, published in 2002. A rare glimpse of life in feudal Britain from the eyes of mainly aristocratic women - daughters, wives, widows. It also has a useful introduction covering marriage patterns, inheritance and the like.

There is a vast amount of fiction that is worth while - Dickens, of course, and my favourite, Elizabeth Gaskill.

These books are mainly still in print or have been re-issued. It is worth doing web searches for them or looking through the many on-line bookstores. Local Libraries will have many on their shelves or can get them for you via Inter-Library Loan.
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Offline kerryb

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« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 23 May 06 14:41 BST (UK) »
Thanks Gadget

Very useful and interesting!

Can I just add one that is not really about social history but natural history. 

I am reading at the moment and finding it really useful for understanding the history of the countryside and gives a bit of background to how my ancestors might have had an influence on the landscape around us.

The Illustrated History of the Countryside by Oliver Rackham


Census information Crown Copyright, from

Searching for my family - Baldwin - Sussex, Middlesex, Cork, Pilbeam - Sussex, Harmer - Sussex, Terry - Surrey, Kent, Rhoades - Lincs, Roffey - Surrey, Traies - Devon & Middlesex & many many more to be found on my website ....

Offline Gadget

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Re: Social History Sources - General UK
« Reply #3 on: Friday 09 June 06 00:17 BST (UK) »

I have just acquired:

Sandbrook, Dominc Never had it so good: a history of Britain from Suez to the Beatles
Published last year, it looks a really 'must have'/ 'must read' book about  mid 1950s-60s Britain - from events like the first broadcast of 'Ready, Steady, Go' to the Profumo affair , the Wilson Government and, of course, the Beatles.

From Dave Francis:

Horn, P  The Rise & Fall of the Victorian Servant
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