YAH Reading List
All of the following books are easy to access, usually in multiple copies, free of charge, in the York Local Studies library upstairs in the central library, York Explore. Usually there are also copies to be borrowed downstairs in the lending library and some of the pamphlets and booklets are available for sale.
Peacock, A. J.
York in the Great War 1914-1918
Essays in York History (reprints of York Historian Vols 1-6)
Alf Peacock has been the most active and prolific writer on York’s local history in its broad sense. His work was based on extensive research, particularly using local newspapers and the city archives as sources, though sometimes uncritically by modern standards. His books provide a good orientation, though some of his views are personally idiosyncratic and open to challenge. In his books and articles he gives some coverage of Chartism and the suffragette movement and the anti-war movement in 1914, but otherwise tends to concentrate on the ‘great and the good’ in local politics and elections.
Nuttgens, Patrick (ed)
The History of York, Yorkshire from earliest times to the year 2000
Primarily interested in the architectural fabric rather than the people, this is an orientation volume and contains nothing of radical interest. It is the most up to date ‘history’.
Poverty and Prejudice: a study of Irish Immigrants in York 1840-1875
Of great interest to social historians of York in the nineteenth century and valuable to the ‘alternative’ historian for that. It covers poverty among a significant section of the community.
Various ‘locality histories’
A number of writers and community history groups have produced small books, usually illustrated with photographs and often drawn from oral history memoirs, covering most of the districts in York and some of the surrounding villages: Clifton, Huntington, Fishergate, Hungate, Walmgate, Stonegate, Holgate, Dringhouses, New Earswick and Copmanthorpe are all represented. They are valuable for social background, human stories, if inclined occasionally to be a bit nostalgic.
A Directory of York Pubs 1455-2003
Very much at the heart of ‘alternative York’ are the drinking establishments, past and present. Working people met there in the past and, as well as social life, practised their early political and organisational life. It is a tradition we are pleased to continue! There is no index to the book, so you will have to search through it and have an old map to hand. Useful in that respect is the map in Seebohm Rowntree’s study on poverty.
Rowntree, B. Seebohm
Poverty: A study of town life (Centennial edition)
Originally published in 1901, this was an early study of poverty using sociological methods, building on what Charles Booth had done in London. Because it featured particularly the city of York and contains enormous amounts of data and human interest detail, it is a vital way of understanding late Victorian society – the background to subsequent recruitment for the First World War, as well as the impetus towards the first grudging elements of social welfare introduced by Liberal governments a few years later. It is marred somewhat by a middle-class, Quaker moral attitude towards the poorer sort, but gives evidence of the activities of trade unions, friendly societies and sick clubs. There are useful maps of central York including the locations of drinking establishments.
The Land of Lost Content: The Luddite Revolt 1812
While York was not at the heart of the Luddite movement, it was the centre for punitive activity through the York Assizes and imprisonment at York Castle. This is a first rate survey of what went on in the West Riding and the York trials by a former BBC journalist. Because of the journalistic style some of the interpretation and narrative is slightly fanciful, but it has been well-researched from original documentation and early printed accounts. The original sources are perhaps more trustworthy, despite their prejudice towards the authorities, but this is a well-written and lively account with some valid arguments. Where it lacks in context, refer to ‘The Making of the English Working-Class’, by EP Thompson.