The People’s History

Forget “Dowton Abbey”, “Bridgerton” and “The Crown”. The history that matters was made by ordinary people.

Frank Parker
5 min readNov 22, 2022

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Cyfarthfa Castle, home of William Crawshay one of three Iron Masters who controlled the lives of workers in the South Wales valleys in the nineteenth century. Image from walesonline.co.uk

Am I alone in finding it strange that so much twenty first century historical fiction centres on the ‘big house’ and the affairs of the aristocracy, when the trials and tribulations of their tenants and labourers are ignored?

We admire Dickens and a few others who highlighted those struggles when they were contemporary for the Victorians, yet seem oblivious to the reality of the suffering inflicted on the majority of our ancestors by the industrial revolution, or the struggles they underwent in pursuit of decent living conditions and the right to vote.

One author has set out, through several outstanding novels, to redress this balance. I published an interview with her here.

This is my review of her current release.

Much of Bryn’s oeuvre is based on her own family history. Her latest, Give Us This Day, is centred on the events of 1831 in South Wales.

The setting, the hills and valleys around Merthyr Tydfil, is well realised, especially the contrast between the unspoilt high tops and the grime of the valleys desecrated by mining and iron working as the industrial revolution took hold.

The book opens with scenes which set the historical context: the history of mining and iron making in South Wales, the exploitation of labour through the truck system which restricted the ability of workers to spend their earnings other than in company sponsored businesses.

Also clearly evident is the importance of religion, especially Methodism, with the central character a newly appointed minister. His relationship with his wife, a midwife, and their children is established early on, as is the hardship experienced by members…

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Frank Parker

Frank is a retired Engineer from England now living in Ireland. He is trying to learn and share the lessons of history.