History events at the IHR

Comforting memories or bad examples? Home and the life-cycle amongst the English working-class 1870-1914

13 November 2012, 17:15 - 19:15

Event Type: Seminar


Oliver Betts (IHR)


This paper seeks to address one chronically overlooked aspect of life in urban communities of what have traditionally been labelled the 'working-class' – the home and its place in the lifecycle of residents. Historians have often seen the working-class home as merely a rough adaptation of the prevailing middle-class culture of domesticity or as simply too unstable and poverty-stricken to have had any coherent influence on the communities and cultures of its residents.

Utilising newly available personal sources, such as census returns and court records, however, this paper will demonstrate that homes held powerful physical and emotional places in the lives of their inhabitants. Crucially these homes were not static, but changed and mutated as their residents progressed through the life-cycle. Yet these were also the urban communities studied by Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree, and the homes they contained were subject to the pressures of life close to the poverty line. Examining homes across life-cycles and generations, this paper will explore how they both shaped and were shaped by the changing needs and desires of their residents.

Venue: Room 102 (Senate House, first floor)

Senate House
Malet Street 
London WC1E 7HU 

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Related Events: Life-Cycles History