OU academic Emily Cockayne visits the Thinking Allowed studios this week to discuss the history of neighbours. Emily is a research associate in history at the Open University
In her 2012 book, Cheek By Jowl, she reviews the public and private changes in men’s and women’s lives that have impacted on our idea of neighbourliness. She discusses how neighbours at one time very much lived in each other’s pockets – sometimes literally, with money-lending and support amongst the neighbourhood poor being commonplace.
Nowadays, however, increased wealth and ownership of domestic and personal communications technologies seems to have changed all that. In Britain, the tradition of gossiping whilst doing laundry in outdoor communal areas has largely ceased. Chatting to neighbours happens less frequently as we now have near constant access to more distant friends by telephone or email. And, as Cockayne points out, the use of private and public transport means we are no longer wedded to our local amenities and can ‘escape’ our immediate surroundings, and neighbours, with increased ease and frequency.
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