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This article examines some of the opportunities and challenges associated with using archived qualitative data to explain macro-social change through a biographical lens. Using examples from a recent research project on family change in Ireland, I show how working across qualitative datasets provided opportunities for generating new explanations of social change by 'reading against the grain' of established social science narratives and tracing innovation in social practices. I also discussdoi:10.18778/1733-8069.15.1.02 fatcat:hpbqodpsmjfrtenyyxqjtetniu