Living with Dying:

Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, 1900-50s

In twentieth-century Britain, dying was both extraordinary and an ‘everyday’ experience. Whilst the death of a loved one was a momentous emotional event for the family involved, within the wider community death occurred regularly. Supported by the AHRC, this project explored experiences of death, dying and remembrance over the twentieth century.

A core question at the heart of this project is how we remember the dead when they have gone. From keeping objects of a spouse who has died, to researching the lives of ancestors we never knew, we are exploring what families do to ‘keep alive’ memories of those who have died. The focus is on the voices of individuals themselves, and recovering those through detailed examination of autobiographies, archived interviews, and our work with our group of family historians. Through the blog we’re posting updates on the research as it happens, and feature the research of students at the University of Leeds who are exploring different aspects of death, dying and the dead over the twentieth century.

Why does history matter?

We think history has a role to play today. History can help us question the present, understand how change might come about in the future, and challenge assumptions about things always getting better. It can help us understand the attitudes of older generations. And we’re dealing with a sensitive and emotional subject here – not everyone is comfortable talking about death. By using stories and examples from the past, we also hope that history might offer an easier or more neutral way for people to start thinking about their or their relatives’ own end of life care and death, and plan for these where possible. You can read more about why we think history matters in our introductory blog post here.

This project has been generously supported by The Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is being led by Dr Laura King at the University of Leeds. Find out more about the project team and our project partners.