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18 September 2014
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First Steps in Local History

By Dr Alan Crosby
Image of old dispensary in Islington, London
The old dispensary in Islington, London 


  • Have you ever thought about the history of your own town or village or suburb?
  • What was it like before the housing estates were built?
  • Who built those 1920s houses?
  • Why are some of the streets narrow and winding, but others straight and wide?
  • What does that place-name mean?
  • Find out how to approach local history and get started on a project of your own.

Maybe you have moved to a different house and are interested in discovering more about its history. You might be newcomers to a town or village and want to gain a sense of its identity, or maybe lived there all your lives and have realised that there is a whole lot which you don't know, simply because it seems so ordinary and familiar.

'There are all sorts of motives and reasons for embarking upon the local history trail ...'

Perhaps the world you have known is disappearing - landmarks and mundane ways of life are changing and vanishing, and you want to do something before they are gone completely.

There are all sorts of motives and reasons for embarking upon the local history trail, but all of them lead to the same basic question. How do I find out more about it? Who might tell you about your community, its people and its landscape, in the past?

There is no one way to approach local history and there are great many tips that can help those new to the subject get the best start possible. Even if you only follow some of them you will still be on the road to becoming a successful local historian.

Published: 2005-03-02

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