Approaches to the material world
in History through material culture
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This chapter provides an overview of the origins of material culture studies and the disciplinary specialisms that have had the strongest bearing on their development. The theoretical underpinning of material culture studies will be elucidated through a clear and concise discussion of the work of philosophers and social theorists – making clear that 'things' have agency. The chapter demonstrates that by viewing the objects of the past as inanimate and inactive as compared with the living, breathing humans who made, exchanged, and used them - researchers can miss the dynamism of the object-person interactions that took place many decades or centuries ago. Moving on from the theoretical principles that have shaped the study of material things, the chapter discusses the circumstances that brought about historical material culture studies. It also considers the particular place of historical work within this context and the many potentialities material culture history offers for future research.


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