Thursday, 25 January 2018

A House Through Time... A House Through CRIME?

Tonight will be the last episode of my new favourite TV programme; A House Through Time. If you know me or my research, you'll know that it's right up my street. (Pun fully intended.)

The programme has focused on a single house in Liverpool and, drawing on the disparate archival traces and connections left by residents since the house was first built in the 1840s, has used 62 Falkner Street as a prism through which to explore not just the architectural and economic history of the building itself, but also the material, cultural, and social histories of the street, the area, the city, with personal and political journeys reaching right around the globe. I love this because, like my own research, it shows that the history of a single house is the history of so many houses, and it shows the many ways that the spaces people live in can influence their lives, their opportunities, their families, their relationships; their futures/our pasts.

There's been a stellar staff involved in researching and presenting the programme. For example, David Olusoga has been accompanied by Deborah Sugg Ryan, who influenced me early on in my postgraduate research about Histories of Home when I saw her present at the Institute of Historical Research in London. She also gave me serious dress-envy! And I've enjoyed Tweeting with her and other historians whose books adorn my shelves, hearing a little about how the research for the programme evolved. As for sources, we've seen census records, maps, furniture lists, letters, photographs, and some great visualisations to show the changing geographies of the house and the neighbourhood. It's been a really varied and dynamic programme and has appealed to a wide audience - some people came for the history, others the nostalgia, and there's also been a lot of love for Liverpool.

In this previous post on my blog I do a sort of mini 'House Through Time' about a house in William Mews in Knightsbridge, London, and I'm planning more based on similar streets near my home in the City of Brighton and Hove so watch this space!

I can't help thinking how great it would be to make a programme like 'A House Through Time' using the approach I've applied to my own research, a micro-macro historical view of a house using the sources from a case of murder before 1970. If 62 Falkner Street had been the site of one of the murder cases I've researched there would be crime scene photographs capturing the furniture and decoration at a moment in time, a floor-plan showing how the rooms and furniture were laid out, descriptions of the house and how it was lived in by the inhabitants, the routines and everyday minutiae of the lives of the neighbours and relatives, their jobs, their relationships, their migration journeys, their local/national/international networks of kin and social connections, love letters, diaries, lists of furniture and personal belongings, exhibits of evidence... Wouldn't that make great telly?! If anyone wants to commission me to write A HOUSE THROUGH CRIME, please get in touch!

How about this House Through Time/House Through Crime? This 1930s case highlights important historical themes like class, migration, domestic violence, race, mental health, policing and nosy neighbours!

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