History through material culture provides a practical introduction for researchers who wish to use objects and material culture as primary sources for the study of the past. The book focuses primarily on the period 1500 to the present day, but the principles put forward are equally applicable to studies of earlier historical eras. Histories of the last five centuries have been driven to a remarkable extent by textual records and it is with this in mind that History through material culture offers researchers a step-by-step guide to approaching the material evidence that survives from this period. Anticipating that many researchers will feel under-skilled or lacking in confidence in tackling artefacts of the past, the book traces the process of research from the framing of research questions through to the writing up of findings – giving particular attention to the ways in which objects can be located, accessed and understood. This practical guidance is augmented by the use of examples of seminal and contemporary scholarship in this interdisciplinary field, so that readers can see how particular approaches to sources have been used to develop historical narratives and arguments. It is written in accessible and jargon-free language with clear explanations of more complex discourses. In this way, the book demystifies both the process of researching objects and the way research practice relates to published scholarship.
The introduction argues that it is critical to consider the network of women working at the heart of the Arts and Crafts and to trace the movement into the early twentieth century. Such an approach unveils the centrality of women art workers in formulating a new vision of the movement which focused less on an idealistic rhetoric of dismantling class hierarchies and more on a pragmatic cultivation of the public obsession with obtaining Arts and Crafts objects for the home. Subsequently, the introduction argues that women art workers provide critical new insights into the porous nature of skilled work cultures across this era, as they constructed working lives by moving between fields so often considered in isolation: artistic, intellectual, professional, entrepreneurial, and domestic. Their lives illuminate how many professional women rejected prevalent Victorian ideas about the innate creative differences between women and men, and instead positioned themselves as equally capable of participating in artistic culture. The introduction concludes with a justification of the structure of the book – organised around the buildings and spaces women art workers repeatedly argued were central to the construction of their new working lives – and details the range of sources that are to be used.
The introduction makes the case for historians making use of material culture, not only as a primary source, but as a catalyst for developing new lines of enquiry. This chapter sets the context of the book by describing how the academic landscape in the last twenty years has drawn museums and historians ever closer. It also defines the scope of ‘material culture’ for this book and explore common definitions in the interdisciplinary field of material culture studies. Finally, the introduction provides a summary of the contents of the chapters and suggestions for how to get the best out of the research guide
This chapter traces the origins of the two Opium Wars; it charts the development of both of these Anglo-Chinese conflicts and discusses their consequences. It introduces students to the illustrious historiography and current debate and points out gaps in existing scholarship.
May-Fourth intellectuals/revolutionaries blamed Confucianism for China’s problems but the ancient philosophy now lives in harmony with modernity. This chapter takes a look at China’s transformation from the unique perspective of sports, the arts and the family. A century of revolution and reform has seen the modernisation of these aspects of life in China; they teach us great lessons about change and continuity.
This chapter explores Chinese efforts at indigenising Christianity and this could not have been more obvious than with the Taiping Rebellion. It explains why both the Qing’s intellectual elite and foreign missionaries shunned the Taiping Rebellion. It also probes the strange alliance to suppress the Taiping between the Westerners who waged the Second Opium War on China and the Qing regime.
This chapter examines the origins of the late Qing reform and exposes the difficulties as the conservative and reformist factions battled each other both at court and around the country. Although many historians have argued that the reform was a failure, this chapter singles out a few cases to highlight the foundation it laid for later reforms and the overseas connection which would open a new door for China.
This chapter illustrates the Age of Empire in Asia as Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan took turns to batter the declining Qing. They carved out their spheres of interest and set up colonies; their encroachment roused resentment, which culminated in the Boxer Rebellion and added fuel to Chinese nationalism. Anti-imperialism would be a major political platform for revolutions to come.
The first decade of the twentieth century saw anti-Qing insurrection culminate in the 1911 Nationalist Revolution. But the new Nationalist government of the Republic of China had neither the power nor the means to manage the country. Revolutions of different kinds, from ideological to literary, from feminist to cultural, were also taking place and it was these that were really changing the country.