In My View

Community and neighbourliness are fundamental to McCarthy & Stone developments. So, each month we’ll be asking a special guest to tell us what that means to them. First up is historian, TV presenter and bestselling author Ruth Goodman

From Victorian Farm to The One Show, Ruth has shared her brilliant insights into social history. And her latest book, The Domestic Revolution, explains how the introduction of coal into our homes changed everything.

What do you love about history?

I particularly enjoy seeing how things have changed over time in different cultures. We have this idea that everything is fixed and it’s hard to encourage shifts in behaviour, but in fact this isn’t the case – how we lived 50 years ago isn’t at all how we live now! For me, this is a really empowering thought; that change is possible in society.

How important was community?

Throughout history, community has been the saving grace. It was a question of survival. If you became ill, you had to depend on the good, strong relationships you’d built amongst the community in order to be supported and healed. Without these, you’d find yourself very exposed

And now?

Community is, and has always been, important to everyone. Take my mother, for example. She’s in her 80s and I don’t know what she would have done without her two very kind and helpful neighbours. They’ve offered to do her shopping and it’s made such a difference to her life, as well as being a relief for me. It has been reassuring to know someone is there for her.

What’s your advice during this difficult time?

I think the most important thing is to make the most of the positive aspects we’re experiencing now, rather than worry too much about the future. If you’re lucky to have a scrap of garden, or at least a view of a garden from your window, you might be beginning to notice the bees and the new growth of plants. In fact, I think people are having a much stronger relationship with the seasons than they used to because they are more observant of the outdoors and making more effort to be outside.

Can history help?

I’ve noticed a lot more people are reusing things, so in that way we are borrowing learnings from the past. And we are being forced to find ways to be less wasteful because firstly, there’s a more limited amount of stuff out there to buy, and secondly, because we have to save money!

Will it change us?

I think the biggest change we have seen is the end of the commuter. We’ve had the means to work from different locations for a while, but lockdown has shown us that most people can effectively work from the comfort of their own homes. What that might mean for community, I don’t know.

The Domestic Revolution is available now in print and e-book

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