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.
‘creole elite’ who believed they would benefit from a
shared, non-ethnic British cultural identity: all of these challenge the
image of a British world made up exclusively of the British diaspora. 5
It is clear that empires have a much wider impact on
materialculture than an examination of exclusively white settler
colonies would suggest. The ‘footprint’ of empire is often
seen in the physical landscape as
commissioned, fabricated, purchased, or used them and, by extension, the
beliefs of the larger society’. 4 The case of the bedside tables exemplifies
how materialculture can add layers and nuance to the history of
medical institutions. The ways pieces of furniture, domestic
objects, scientific instruments and architectural environments are
built, used and adapted give us insight on everyday practices
Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body. This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to ‘thing theory’ and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. The active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.
This book explores artisanal identity and culture in early modern London. It demonstrates that the social, intellectual, and political status of London’s crafts and craftsmen was embedded in particular material and spatial contexts. Through examination of a wide range of manuscript, visual, and material culture sources, the book investigates for the first time how London’s artisans physically shaped the built environment of the city, and how the experience of negotiating urban spaces impacted directly upon their own distinctive individual and collective identities. The book identifies and examines a significant cultural development hitherto overlooked by social and architectural historians: a movement to enlarge, beautify, and rebuild livery company halls in the City of London from the mid-sixteenth century to the start of the English civil wars. By exploring these re-building projects in depth, the book throws new light on artisanal cultural production and self-presentation in England’s most diverse and challenging urban environment. Craft company halls became multifunctional sites for knowledge production, social and economic organisation, political exchange, and collective memorialisation. The forms, uses, and perceptions of company halls worked to define relationships and hierarchies within the guild, and shaped its external civic and political relations. Applying an innovative and interdisciplinary methodology to the examination of artisanal cultures, the book engages with the fields of social and cultural history and the histories of art, design, and architecture. It will appeal to scholars of early modern social, cultural, and urban history, and those interested in design and architectural history.
Recent cultural studies have demonstrated the weakness of some of the fashionable theoretical positions adopted by scholars of imperialism in recent times. This book explores the diverse roles played by museums and their curators in moulding and representing the British imperial experience. The British Empire yielded much material for British museums, particularly in terms of ethnographic collections. The collection of essays demonstrates how individuals, their curatorial practices, and intellectual and political agendas influenced the development of a variety of museums across the globe. It suggests that Thomas Baines was deeply engaged with the public presentation, display and interpretation of material culture, and the dissemination of knowledge and information about the places he travelled. He introduced many people to the world beyond Norfolk. A discussion of visitor engagement with non-European material cultures in the provincial museum critiques the assumption of the pervasive nature of curatorial control of audience reception follows. The early 1900s, the New Zealand displays at world's fairs presented a vision of Maoriland, which often had direct Maori input. From its inception, the National Museum of Victoria performed the dual roles of research and public education. The book also discusses the collections at Australian War Memorial, Zanzibar Museum, and Sierra Leone's National Museum. The amateur enthusiasms and colonial museum policy in British West Africa are also highlighted. Finally, the book follows the journey of a single object, Tipu's Tiger, from India back to London.
then there are also the ordinary things, the overlooked, the everyday – they fill our worlds, make our routine actions possible (or obstruct them). We cannot – as Lorraine Daston has emphasised – even ‘imagine a world without things’. 2 Materialculture frames all of our actions and experiences and is constitutive of them. Materialculture sheds light on our production and consumption of goods, our power relations, social bonds and networks, gender interactions, identities, cultural affiliations and beliefs. Materialculture communicates all kinds of human values
This guide has sought to show that materialculture is a valuable and accessible source of evidence for historians and one that can prompt new ways of thinking about the past. As we have seen, materialculture articulates relationships and interactions between people, things, and broader societal structures and networks. By combining examples of this kind of scholarship with details of how a researcher can access objects to study, we hope to have demystified the practice of materialculture history and made it more approachable for the reader. The guide
There are, as we have seen, very many reasons for historians to be interested in the insights that materialculture can unlock. However, for objects to yield rewards we must employ tried and tested strategies for examining them. Such established approaches have emerged from distinct disciplines and professional practices, which have their own histories and intellectual concerns. This chapter provides an introduction to the origins of historical materialculture studies in terms of both academic research and museum practice, so that we can understand not