Social historians have become increasingly aware of the multiple forms of social diversity within all societies, including age diversity. But less attention has been paid to older rather than younger ages. This article examines the history and social meanings of aging and old age, mainly in the 'western' cultures of Europe, North America and Australasia, and mainly concerning their White inhabitants due to the very limited availability of historical work on other cultures which it should be part of our future agenda to repair. Even across these 'western' countries, it is difficult to make systematic comparisons, due to the different preoccupations of, and uneven volume of work by historians of different countries. Nevertheless, existing work makes us aware of the significant presence of older people, especially of older women, in most past societies and of the subjectivity and highly variable experiences of aging and old age across place and time; and it cautions against negative narratives of declining experience over time. This is a field in which social history has much to contribute to present-day debates, and fears, about the aging of societies, and it is one in which there is much exciting work still to be done.

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pp. 93-111
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