This book can be described as an 'oblique memoir'. The central underlying and repeated themes of the book are exile and displacement; lives (and deaths) during the Third Reich; mother-daughter and sibling relationships; the generational transmission of trauma and experience; transatlantic reflections; and the struggle for creative expression. Stories mobilised, and people encountered, in the course of the narrative include: the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War; cultural life in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s; the social and personal meanings of colour(s). It also includes the industrialist and philanthropist, Henry Simon of Manchester, including his relationship with the Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen; the liberal British campaigner and MP of the 1940s, Eleanor Rathbone; reflections on the lives and images of spinsters. The text is supplemented and interrupted throughout by images (photographs, paintings, facsimile documents), some of which serve to illustrate the story, others engaging indirectly with the written word. The book also explains how forced exile persists through generations through a family history. It showcases the differences between English and American cultures. The book focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations.
Janet Wolff's essay is structured around the move from England to the United States, with the dislocation of perception that comes with that shift. It operates as part memoir and part family history, these two strands also intersecting with other people's stories. Visual images also play a part in the story – paintings, diary pages and facsimile documents.
Science, manufacture and culture in mid-nineteenth-century Manchester
Janet Wolff’s essay investigates the role played by cotton manufacturers, particularly calico printers, in the rise of art education and the development of chemistry in Britain in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. In the case of art education – originally established in London and other cities with a view to improving design in industry – manufacturers in the northwest of England had a clear interest in its progress.The calico printer Edmund Potter played an active role here, giving evidence to Select Committees and also in his involvement in the Manchester School of art from its founding in 1838. However, he argued strongly for a fine art education, rather than the narrowly practical training one might assume manufacturers would favour.Parallel to these developments, the rise of chemistry, prior to its establishment in universities, is traced to the employment of chemists, many from Germany, in the dye-works of the calico printers.
In this chapter, the author, through a family history, speaks of how forced exile persists through generations. He narrates the series of events that took place after he left England and moved to United States, including the catastrophic failures of nuclear reactors. The discussion largely focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations. The author also showcases the differences between English and American cultures.
In this chapter, the author discusses the cultural life in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s. The city of the 1920s is often referred to as 'Mr Eastman's town'. Economically, the first three decades of the twentieth century had been described as Rochester's golden age, and the centrality of Eastman-Kodak to the city's prosperity had important cultural consequences. The establishment by George Eastman of the Eastman School of Music and the Eastman Theatre in 1922 was the single most important event marking the 'end of provincialism'. The 'Rochester Renaissance' owed a lot to Eastman's wealth and philanthropy .
In this chapter, the author explains the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War. The 'internment of aliens' is a peculiar and rather hysterical measure taken by the British government after Dunkirk. The author describes his father as an alien. He is alien to Britain and to English culture. He came to Britain from Germany in February 1938, was a class C 'enemy alien' (recognised as a genuine refugee, and officially designated a 'friendly' enemy alien). The classifications were made by wartime tribunals set up in Britain in 1939.
Ideas about the effects of a certain colour, its associations and symbolism, are far from uniform cross-culturally. In addition, the naming of colours is almost impossible to clarify for earlier periods and for other cultures. The complementary colour is the combination of the two other primaries (red plus yellow as complementary to blue). Or (the Newtonian version), the colour which, combined with its primary, makes white in coloured light, grey in coloured paint. In this chapter, the author focuses on the social and personal meanings of colour (mainly blue). In Western Europe since the medieval period there are plenty of examples of shifting meanings of colour terms. Blue, says Michel Pastoureau, was considered a warm colour in medieval and Renaissance Europe, and only began to be seen as cool in the seventeenth century.
In this chapter, the author talks about her mother. She started keeping a baby diary on 5 July 1943, just over three months after the author was born. From starting off as a real Austerity baby, war time model, she soon became lovely and plump. The author also talks about the anxious childhood of the British journalist Anne Karpf, daughter of Holocaust survivors, in London.
In this chapter, the author focuses on the liberal British campaigner and MP of the 1940s, Eleanor Rathbone. She is best known for her long campaign for family allowances. The author talks about Tante Leonie's life in Offenburg, or about how their lives changed after the National Socialists came to power in January 1933. The author presents the letter written by Leonie's sister-in-law Meta (wife of Sigmund's brother, Bernhard) to her daughter Trudel.
In this chapter, the author focuses on the industrialist and philanthropist, Henry Simon of Manchester, including his relationship with the Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen. Lawnhurst is one of several mansions in Didsbury, built as family homes by wealthy industrialists and businessmen in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Lysaker, Norway, just outside Oslo, there is another mansion house, called Polhøgda, which is very like Lawnhurst. The house was built in 1901 for the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who then lived there until his death in 1930. It was inspired by Lawnhurst: Nansen had borrowed the plans from Henry Simon, after staying there as Henry's guest in 1897.