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History's Clues: A Postcard from Darwen

By Geoff Timmins
Image of Market Street, Darwen around 1908
Darwen in Lancashire, around 1908 

What was your locality like in the past? As you walk along the roads or streets near your home, what evidence can you see of changes that have taken place? Discover how to unlock the secrets of the past by looking at a picture postcard.

Picturing the past

Postcards are attractive (usually) reminders of what life used to be like in the quite recent past - or of how it was for our parents, grandparents or great-granparents. Some can also provide unexpected insights into important events of the past - so they are worth taking seriously as historic source material.

'Postcards provide a rich source of pictorial evidence for the physical fabric of local life.'

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries picture postcards of local scenes, including urban street scenes, were produced in large quantities in every part of the country. Since many of them were kept by their recipients, they also survive in large numbers. But although they provide a rich source of pictorial evidence for the physical fabric of local life in Britain, the historian has to look at them objectively, to extract from them an accurate account of times gone by.

Published: 2005-01-31

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