Family history spans both private stories and public history and experiments with the limits of fiction and non-fiction
Family history spans both private stories and public history. It challenges our ideas of what we mean by ‘proper’ history and experiments with the limits of fiction and non-fiction. Richard Benson and Alison Light read from their recent work and discuss writing their family histories of the working classes. Hosted by the British Library and the Raphael Samuel History Centre, London.
Richard Benson’s The Farm (2005), an account of his family during the forced sale of their farm, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The Valley (2014), which sets his family stories against the history of the mining industry, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week; it was praised for combining ‘the epic sweep of Gone with the Wind with the microscopic intensity of Tolstoy’.
Alison Light is author of the much-acclaimed Mrs Woolf and the Servants (2007). Common People: the History of an English Family (2014) explores her own family history across two centuries. Shortlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize, one reviewer deemed it ‘part memoir, part thrilling social history of the England of the Industrial Revolution, but above all a work of quiet poetry’.