Traditionally there has been a marked disparity between the attention given by historians to national politics as compared with local politics. Whereas the former has attracted extensive and forensic interest the latter has tended to be either marginalised or ignored. In the first part of presentation we will outline the substance of, and approaches to, local political history; consider some of the reasons why it has been neglected; and make the case for it to receive the attention it deserves. The second part will be a case study of politics in the small Kent market town of Sevenoaks from the 1870s to 1914, ‘“Economists” versus “Progressives”’. Here the focus will be on the public issues that helped shape local political loyalties, new unities and political factions, with the great national issues of the day often being viewed from profound religious beliefs and considerations allied to democratic ideologies about future social and economic welfare. At local level this embraced the relief of the poor, water supply and sanitary reform, improved working conditions and labour relations, tenant farmers’ interests, the position of women and children, education, public spaces, and the provision of housing and social welfare.
David Killingray is Emertius Professor of Modern History, Goldsmiths, and a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He was chair of the BALH Trustees, 2018-20. In active retirement he continues to research and write on areas that he taught for many years: the modern history of Africa, the Caribbean, and imperialism, the black diaspora, and local history. With Dr Iain Taylor he has recently completed a book on the history of Sevenoaks 1790-1914; his biography of Dr Harold Moody and the League of Coloured Peoples is nearing completion.
Roger Ottewill worked in local government finance before a career in higher education. He rediscovered his love of history, studying for an MRes at the University of Southampton and, following retirement, for a PhD in Modern Church History at the University of Birmingham, which he completed in 2015. His particular interests are local political, administrative and religious history and he has contributed articles on many different aspects of these subjects to a wide variety of journals, a number of which will be mentioned in his presentation. In recent years he has been researching Nonconformity in, and the political life of, the north-east Hampshire town of Basingstoke between 1800 and 1925 for the new Victoria County History project. From 2015 to 2021 he was Chair of the Local History Section of the Hampshire Field Club.