Cheek by Jowl: A History of Neighbours by Emily Cockayne – Review

Cheek by Jowl by Emily Cockayne

Cheek by Jowl: A History of Neighbours by Emily Cockayne


Cheek by Jowl is not a book on the history of the Australian soap opera but on the British history of the people we live next door to. This fascinating book investigates what it has meant to be a neighbour in the UK, from as early as the 1200s to modern-day.


It is commonly thought that friendliness, teamwork and community spirit has hugely decreased, especially over the last 100 years. This book exposes a few of the reasons why. One of the main reasons is exposure to increased wealth. When you’re in the financial situation where you constantly need to swap and borrow things, who could afford not to know their neighbours? Another reason is the improved welfare system. Now there are trained professionals taking care of childbirth and the sick, neighbours assistance just isn’t required as much as it used to be.


Neighbours from hell are also discussed, from Victorian street squabbles to recent murders over parking spaces. It also includes a look into class, privacy, race, building structures and of course, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.


This book really is quite a fascinating read, especially towards the second half as the author’s humour and personality seem to come out (see the section on In the Midnight Garden after local swingers’ parties). True life cases and photographs all go to illustrate points and assist in understanding early housing situations that are virtually unimaginable in our current lives. If you have any interest in the social history of the UK, you will thoroughly enjoy this education, thought-provoking and fun book.


If you like Cheek by Jowl by Emily Cockayne you’ll love Fragile Lives by Professor Stephen Westaby.




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