Monday, 20 July 2009

Genealogy and Politics

I was recently thinking about my family tree just after having been involved in a political discussion, and I realised that they have a lot in common.

In a sense one's family history is a reflection of the political situation at any given time. I was recently asked by a distant relative from Westmorland, a beautiful rural area encompassing a large part of the Lake District why my ancestor had moved south to the industrial centre of Salford. The answer must have been, of course, work. At the time he was a marble mason and clearly there would be more work in an industrial centre.

The reason behind much of the growth of our cities is due to technology, but often it is the actions of, or pressure from, our politicians which create population movements. More obvious was the effect the politicians, of both the trade unions and the government, had in the decline of the English mining villages during the 1980s. We have had periods of very high taxation when people would emigrate to avoid them, and other times when the government has restricted the funding of research leading to the so called "brain drain".

Today we are seeing the loss of young people from the villages of England because the more wealthy city dwellers are buying second homes and driving house prices out of reach of those whose families have lived there for generations. A perfect local example of the movement of people in order to improve their lot, a situation worsened for the villagers by the European Agriculture and Fisheries policies.

It is said that the way ahead for western economies is to maximise the high-tech skills of the people. If that is the case we can expect a large influx of people to take over service jobs, such as bar-tenders, labouring and other manual jobs. This was recently illustrated by the number of east Europeans who came to England
to take such jobs, and left when our economy crashed.

My aim here is not to take sides, but to illustrate how genealogy and political history are interwoven by the action or inaction of our politicians, even in (relative) peace time!

© Ron Ferguson 2009

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