Letitia Simpson (1926-2012): Researching and Writing

As an English Literature student, the texts we study tend to be classics, poetry and plays by the likes of William Shakespeare, as I am sure you would have guessed. Therefore, studying a text that is not written by a famous author and focuses on truth rather than fiction was a challenge most intellectually stimulating. Out of all of the texts studied on my degree, this one was the one I enjoyed both reading and researching the most. As someone who shares as much enthusiasm for history, as well as literature, both interests were satisfied as Letitia’s memoir, as with all memoirs studied on this project, are a historical document, as well as an enjoyable read.

                Through the blogs I have posted on Letitia, I have been able to learn what life was really like, during war time in London, from a person who actually lived through it rather than from a historian articulating their findings. I have also gained an insight in what it is like running a public house, as no books that I have ever read have been set in this setting. One thing that I did learn in Letitia’s memoir about working-class life before the creation of a welfare state, was how easy a family could go under and one day be well-off, the next being below the breadline. Being brought up in a country that provides relief for certain people in need, I was unable to understand how people could go poor overnight. Letitia’s biography has enabled me to comprehend this through her mother losing the pub.

                Using social media is a huge factor of this project. As someone who does not use social media, as a rule, this was something different to me. Using Twitter, I was able to send the blogs, and other people’s blog’s viral so they could be seen all around the globe. Twitter is a product of social media that I am not actually familiar with, so, using it was a bit of a challenge. Eventually, after a few tweets, I realised that Twitter gave the blogs and my author a great platform at no financial expense, and, through twitter, various historical and heritage societies have had access to my blogs and have taken interest in them and retweeted them.

                Researching into these blogs has been a great reward to me and I did not know I had such an interest in these skills. Researching into what became of Letitia required some detective work, such as, reading local newspapers to where she lived and looking her up through family tree websites. Through her obituary in The Argus, a local newspaper of Brighton, I learned that she stayed with her husband for the rest of his life and they had two children together. Through the family websites I was able to find a photograph of her, but I decided not to upload it as it wouldn’t be fair on her family, to not give consent.

                I believe I have contributed justly and expansively to public history and particularly working-class wartime history. Through exploring her written memories I have provided direct primary evidence of what it was like in London during the Second World War and through the accounts she gave of her evacuation we, as the modern day reader, can understand how these children actually felt without having to read books written by historians.


Simpson, Letitia. My Day Before Yesterday, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, Vol 4

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