> Skip to content
  • Published: 9 October 2014
  • ISBN: 9780241145913
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Common People

The History of An English Family




A deeply absorbing history from the author of Mrs Woolf and the Servants that explores the fantasies and fascinations of family history

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.

  • Published: 9 October 2014
  • ISBN: 9780241145913
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

Alison Light

Alison Light is the author of Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars and edited Virginia Woolf's Flush for Penguin Classics. She has worked at the BBC and lectured at London University. She is currently a part-time Professor at the Raphael Samuel History Centre in the University of East London and also teaches in the School of English at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She is a contributor to the London Review of Books.

Also by Alison Light

See all

Praise for Common People

In illuminating her own, Light serves up the most powerful family history I have ever read.

Penelope Lively, New York Times

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

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

Evocatively written...a thrilling and unnerving read

The Observer

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

[A] short and beautifully written meditation on family and mobility.

the Independent

Intellectually sound and relevant...a refreshingly modern way of thinking about our past.

New Statesman

Light [is skilled] in probing dark corners of her ancestry and exposing their historical meaning...packed with humanity.

Sunday Times

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

Related titles