A Spotlight on Sevenoaks

Historians Iain Taylor and David Killingray will publish their new book Sevenoaks 1790-1914: Risk and choice in West Kent on 1 December 2022. It differs from previous such works by adopting a bold and original approach to the writing of regional and local history, by viewing historical events through the twin prisms of risk and choice.

This method offers a bottom-up analysis of the lives of ordinary women and men, the people who made major contributions to the history of the area, during the long nineteenth-century.  Four key risk factors shaped and buffeted the everyday lives of the common people of West Kent: the ongoing struggle to secure adequate food, shelter, clothing, and fuel.

In considering these ‘bare necessities’ of life and analysing how those risks might have been mitigated, much is revealed about the town, its people, institutions, belief systems, and the nation. The concept of choice was accentuated when higher disposable incomes led to enhanced consumer options. Greater pluralism, as one might term it, was also reflected in many more places of worship and a widening franchise. But exercising such choices also exacerbated the significant social, political, religious, and ideological divisions across West Kent communities.

Furthermore, as the authors apply these ideas of risk and choice to the Sevenoaks area, they also show how this account of the past resonates and illuminates a broader history of the country, and indeed the world, during a period of rapid and significant change.

The authors are well-known, significant figures in the local history scene not just in West Kent, but in the British local history community. Iain Taylor is a Trustee of the British Association for Local History and David Killingray is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Goldsmiths. Both have published widely on the history of Kent.