Spatial and social interaction in SE Surrey, 1750-1850



One of the central problems facing academic local historians is the extent of the spatial and social space occupied by communities in the past. This is crucial to the definition of the 'local' component in local history. This thesis works towards using the space occupied by communities to define 'local' by measuring the effect of 6 spatial and social boundaries on 19 contiguous but socially and topographically diverse rural communities in S.E. Surrey, Sussex and Kent. Patterns of inter-action are mapped in relation to the administrative boundaries of the parish and county; the natural boundary of the pays; and the social boundaries formed by kinship; social structure; and religion. Finally these boundaries are dissolved to form social areas. The sources used contain elements that describe movement - the chief of these are marriage registers and census data, with a qualitative dimension added by diaries and family papers. Nominal and linguistic material is also used, as well as artifacts, whilst the whole is set within the socio-economic context of the area. The social areas defined by inter-action show a remarkable resemblance to those shown by dialect, material culture, surname distribution and kinship networks. The main characteristics of these areas are that they extend over at least 4 communities which share an intense level of activity. These communities nest within a symbiotic framework of looser activity that goes beyond the study area to include market towns and an important urban centre. Three keywords emerge in the study. The first of these is community - many parishes consisted of several communities reacting in different ways so that this is a more relevant description of groups of people on the ground than parish. The second is symbioses - each community was an integral part of the whole. The last is process, as the patterns of inter-action were not stable but responded to internal and external stimuli. In the final essence, the 'local' component in local history is defined as up to 4 communities set within a loose regional framework. A viable research area for local historians should consist of at least 4 communities as single community studies are unique rather than local. This work contributes both to the study of continuity and change within communities, as well as to the historiography and practice of local history.




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Lord, Evelyn, “Spatial and social interaction in SE Surrey, 1750-1850,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed February 2, 2023,