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The Benham family enter this history at the birth of the nineteenth century and depart it at its demise. They were simple country folk from the villages to the west of Basingstoke in Hampshire, whose lives revolved with the seasons and the natural rhythms of the land. Although little is known about each individual, their tale is a familiar one, for it is that of the agricultural labourer and the domestic servant.
The scant facts that are available reveal a microcosm of life in rural England in the first half of the nineteenth century: a static, ordered life where everyone knew his place and had little opportunity of stepping beyond it; where a son followed in his father’s footsteps; where childhood was short, and men and women grew old before their time; and where, whilst there was much that was good, there was also much to endure.

benham family: hampshire labourers

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