This thesis examines aspects of the history of the ancient parish of Audley between 1840 and 1939 through the concept of ‘unifiers and dividers’. This short phrase encapsulates the idea that people are brought together and separated by factors beyond themselves and that individuals actively shape the world around them. Large-scale cultural and economic movements and individual action are entwined and expressed through observable behaviour. The three-word phrase therefore also encompasses change over time, sees human relationships as a process and avoids reified concepts such as ‘community’. It is a means of describing changes rather than identifying causes. The focus of the thesis is on microhistory, broadly understood, and the parish of Audley is well suited to this. Over most of the period its mining industry expanded rapidly in several distinct settlements, though in the last two decades that industry declined rapidly. Audley was a semi-industrial, changing and reasonably populous place, of a type not often used in this way. A number of aspects of life are taken as illustrations of the value of the idea of unifiers and dividers. There is consideration of the parish as part of a wider, even international, context as people migrated in and out, while it is recognized that the boundary had practical significance; and it is noted, also, that two people brought up together in the same place, Audley, might live in different and mutually incomprehensible universes. The poor law, friendly societies and the churchyard are given as examples of how life in the parish can illustrate the concept. Finally, there is an exploration of the way catastrophes of varying sizes can initiate unifiers and dividers and also illustrate them in ‘ordinary life’ before the catastrophe occurred.
Bailey, Ian, “Unifiers and dividers in a North Staffordshire parish: Audley, 1840-1939,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed February 25, 2020, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/69.