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‘Mrs Harvey came home from Norwich … her pocket picked at the station and all her money stolen’

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Using Life Writing to Recover the Experience of Travel in the Past

image of Journal of Migration History

In most societies the ability to move easily from place to place is a taken-for-granted aspect of twenty-first century life, but much less is known about such mobility in the past with a tendency for accounts to focus on the exceptional rather than the routine. In this paper we use two personal diaries written in England in the mid-nineteenth century and early-twentieth centuries to explore the ways in which everyday mobility was accomplished in the past. Attention is focused on the ease with which people could move around, the variety of modes of transport used, the enjoyment that travel generated, and the difficulties that were encountered. It is concluded that frequent everyday mobility was commonplace and mostly unproblematic, and was as closely enmeshed with society and economy as is the case in the twenty-first century. Such mobility also facilitated residential migration by providing knowledge about potential locations.

Affiliations: 1: Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, la1 4yq,


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