David Olusoga on house histories: “Our homes are often the sites of great dramas and tragedies”

The first series of BBC Two's em>A House Through Time turned an unheralded Liverpool townhouse into a media sensation. Now, fresh from filming a second series, David Olusoga reveals why Britons are finding the history of their homes so captivating | Accompanies the four-part BBC Two series A House Through Time

Falkner Street, Liverpool in the 1960s. A house on this road was the star of a 2018 BBC series. (Image by Nick Hedges)

What are the first things we do when we move into a new house? We immediately set about stamping on to it our tastes and our identity. We redecorate, organise the furniture and methodically arrange our books – the carefully collected volumes that we hope say something about us and our lives. This, and the frenzy of cleaning and scrubbing that precedes it, is about much more than personal taste and domestic hygiene. It is also an attempt to exorcise from our new private space the lingering presence of its past residents. In order to make the empty frame of an old house into a new home, we attempt to disguise an unavoidable truth: that until recently it was the home of other people, and before them yet more people, a line of strangers stretching back decades and sometimes centuries.

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