Digital Genealogy, kinship, affinity, networks, economics, society

Digitised access to genealogy has helped people understand where they and their families have come from. But the potential is so much more

Beyond a name… Little in common, the incomparability of the Northern and Southern British parish – Iain Riddell, PhD, Independent Researcher

The creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and its successor states did not lead to a uniform concept of the parish as a basic unit of a collective society. The basic variations in size of km2 and population may be overlooked simply as the consequences of the flow of history and national administrative agenda or oversight. This realisation establishes an alternative perspective and inspires consideration o the impact of the accumulated differences on how the nineteen-century British parish is written and conceived as a gateway to the construction of cultural-bureaucratic Britishness.

The word parish was inherited and applied by the State and Ecclesiastical structures of the Scottish and English kingdoms. Despite the course of history leading the two reformation State churches in different directions the title of the basic unit of administration and collective society around the local State Church was retained. Consequently, by 1800 there was a significant contrast in how the two legal and ecclesiastical zones regarded, presented, and structured the formal parish. The implications of this for historical study are wide-ranging, starting with the contested notion of the parish as a form of common identity. The paper starts with a basic unpacking of the variation between the parish of north-eastern Britain and those in south-eastern Britain and moves on to identify the tensions variability creates for the study of identity, social group, and the flow of social capital.

While the parish has been used as an important administrative, demographic, and social construction to create a statement about Englishness, the Scottish parish has not been used to the same extent with an implication for the proposition of Britishness as a historical topic. The presentation argues that a fulsome understanding of the types of British parishes has significant implications for how Britishness is unpacked, as academic and popular history.