Moving Home and Changing Lives: Diary Evidence for the Study of Migration and Mobility

Colin Pooley, Lancaster University
Marilyn Pooley, Lancaster University

This paper has two main objectives. First to evaluate the ways in which a short-distance residential move can subtly reshape patterns of everyday activity and, secondly, to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of personal diaries for the study of migration and mobility. The case study of migration and mobility focuses on one woman who lived in North Lancashire in the twentieth century, using a remarkable run of 86 personal diaries that cover her entire life from 1942 when she was just 13 years old. The wider assessment of diary evidence is based on the study of personal records from some 60 individuals who lived in Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the exception of a move to a care home shortly before her death in 2018, the North Lancashire diarist moved house only once in her life. This was a short-distance move in 1952 of only about nine miles (14 km) from a relatively isolated farm to a semi-detached house in an expanding suburban location. This move necessitated substantial adjustments to some aspects of the diarist’s life including work, shopping, friendships, everyday activities and travel, but at the same time she was able to retain contact with relatives, friends and some activities in the location she had left. The paper analyses exactly how she mediated the competing demands of old ties and new opportunities, and the ways in which the pattern and emphasis shifted during the first 20 years of life in her new home. This micro-historical study is then used in conjunction with other diaries to reflect more widely on the shifting balance of continuity and disruption that may occur following a residential move and on the utility of diaries for analysing such changes.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 207. Migration and Mobility in Individual and Collective Memory