Common People: An English Family History Without Roots

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9781905490387: Common People: An English Family History Without Roots

Shortlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize 'A remarkable achievement...should become a classic.' - Margaret Drabble 'Light writes beautifully...Common People is part memoir, part thrilling social history of the England of the Industrial Revolution, but above all a work of quiet poetry and insight into human behaviour. It is full of wisdom.' - The Times Book of the Week 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. 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.

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About the Author:

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.

Review:

An exploration of an English family tree the like of which has never been made before. * Claire Tomalin * [A] short and beautifully written meditation on family and mobility. * the Independent * Light writes beautifully. With such colour and with perception and lyricism she clads the past....Common People is part memoir, part thrilling social history of the England of the Industrial Revolution, but above all a work of quiet poetry and insight into human behaviour. It is full of wisdom. -- Melanie Reid * The Times Book of the Week * Intellectually sound and relevant...a refreshingly modern way of thinking about our past. * New Statesman * This book is a substantial achievement: its combination of scholarship and intelligence is, you may well think, the best monument you could have to all those she has rescued from time's oblivion. * Financial Times * Light [is skilled] in probing dark corners of her ancestry and exposing their historical meaning...packed with humanity. * Sunday Times * Exquisite...Barely a page goes by without something fascinating on it, betraying Light's skill in winkling out the most relevant or moving aspects of her antecedents' lives, which echo through the generations. * the Independent on Sunday * Evocatively written...a thrilling and unnerving read * The Observer * Intelligent...admirably organised...deeply absorbing. * The Spectator * Alison Light's excellent and humane exploration of her family tree...confirms her as the pre-eminent exponent of a new kind of public family history. * Evening Standard * Extraordinary...Family history, thanks to the internet, has become a hugely popular pastime. "Common People", with its fine sense of nuance, raises the game for everyone. * The Economist * This is by turns mesmeric and deeply moving: a poetic excavation of the very meaning of history * Daily Telegraph * A deeply researched and fascinating double story...Light hopes the books will encourage others two write their family history as public history, a feat she pulls off brilliantly. It is a hard act to follow. * Sunday Telegraph * Common People is not costume drama but the real thing - dirty, tragic but joyous, too. * Mail on Sunday * Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, Alison Light makes her family speak for England. * Jerry White, author of London in the Eighteenth Century * A remarkable achievement...should become a classic. * Margaret Drabble *

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