In recent years house histories have become the new frontier of popular, participatory history. People, many of whom have already embarked upon that great adventure of genealogical research, and who have encountered their ancestors in the archives and uncovered family secrets, are now turning to the secrets contained within the four walls of their homes and in doing so finding a direct link to earlier generations. And it is ordinary homes, not grand public buildings or the mansions of the rich, that have all the best stories.
As with the television series, A House Through Time offers readers not only the tools to explore the histories of their own homes, but also a vividly readable history of the British city, the forces of industry, disease, mass transportation, crime and class. The rises and falls, the shifts in the fortunes of neighbourhoods and whole cities are here, tracing the often surprising journey one single house can take from an elegant dwelling in a fashionable district to a tenement for society’s rejects.
Packed with remarkable human stories, David Olusoga and Melanie Backe-Hansen give us a phenomenal insight into living history, a history we can see every day on the streets where we live. And it reminds us that it is at home that we are truly ourselves. It is there that the honest face of life can be seen.
At home, behind closed doors and drawn curtains, we live out our inner lives and family lives.
And Mel’s feature on how you can find out the history of your own house, or a house that’s important to you, is published here in Historia on 5 September, just before the latest TV series of A House Through Time begins on 7 September, 2021. Which is a pleasing hat-trick of house history happiness, we think.