This week’s random book of the week flavours social history with a Heat magazine vibe.
So in 1701 this fella Richard Gough (1635-1723) compiled the history of every family which held a pew in the church at Myddle, a small village in Shropshire. On first appraisal, he is rather like Paul Whitehouse’s character on Harry Enfield & Chums: ‘My name is Michael Paine, and I’m a nosey neighbour’ (see the clip below if you have no idea what I am banging on about!). One wonders if he was considered a bit of a nuisance.
However, by detailing the fortunes of these families during the period from the English Civil War up to the beginning of the 18th century, these family histories bring this period of history to life in a way that no massive history tome can. For example, it is one thing to know that families were split down the middle during the English Civil War (a bit like Brexit…or is it too early to mention that?), but quite another to read about specific family quarrels and the individuals involved. Reading about how different families fared during the Civil War/ Protectorate/ Restoration brings these capital-lettered events down to the experience of the ordinary people who had to endure them.
What I particularly enjoyed though, was the fantastically gossipy streak that runs through these micro-histories. This is where the Heat magazine vibe comes in. Consider Stephen:
this Stephen the younger was never marryed, but was acoompted to live a debauched life among lewd women
A 17th century Darren Day. Plus ça change…