Agendas for the Historical Study of Loneliness and Lone Living

K. D. M. Snell*
Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester, UK

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© 2015 K. D. M. Snell.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester, UK; E-mail:


This article opens up approaches and themes for a history of loneliness. It advocates handling of the subject by historians, and invites historical analysis of concepts, health issues, strategies from the past, theories of long-term loneliness change, „nuclear family hardship‟ and related demography. Topographies of isolation are raised. It then discusses one aspect of this: considering how living alone often seems to shape modern discussion of loneliness, and analysing the steep rise of sole living in Western societies over the past century.

Keywords: Ageing, aloneness, individualism, isolation, loneliness, nuclear family, solitaries, singletons, the elderly, welfare.