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Common People

Common People

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 series of journeys over two centuries, across Britain and beyond.  Needlemakers, sailors, servants, bricklayers - how is the historian to understand the lives of those forbears who left few traces except the barest record: no diaries, letters, or possessions, and sometimes not even a grave? Or the suffering of those individuals deemed paupers, like her great-grandmother, born in the workhouse and dying in an asylum? 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 travelled the country looking for work.  Original and eloquent, 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 them.

About the Author

Alison Light

Alison Light is a writer and critic who is also currently a Visiting Professor of Modern English Literature and Culture at Newcastle University and at Sheffield Hallam University. She was born in Portsmouth, read English at Churchill College, Cambridge and was awarded a D.Phil. from Sussex University. She has worked at the BBC, in adult education, and also lectured at Royal Holloway College and University College London University.  She spent several years establishing the Raphael Samuel History Centre in London. She writes regularly for the press, and also frequently broadcasts on BBC radio and on television. Her last book was the much-acclaimed Mrs Woolf and the Servants.

 

Read our Q&A with Alison Light here

Read a blog by Alison Light here

Read an extract from Common People here

Accolades