In an age where the welfare state, the social jewel in Britain's post-war crown, seems to be at breaking point, Jacques Carré's latest book, La prison des pauvres : l'expérience des workhouses en Angleterre (The Pauper's Prison: The Experience of Workhouses in England), is a timely reminder that public welfare in Britain has a long and complicated history.
A Day at Home in Early Modern England does precisely as the title suggests – it takes its reader through the minutiae of a day in early modern England in painstaking detail using a combination of literary sources, historical documents (including court records, wills and inventories) and household objects.
It is an ambitious book that would try to cover the Conquest of Mexico, the rise and fall of the country’s hacienda system, the emergence of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the intricacies of Emiliano Zapata’s role in the Mexican Revolution, and the exodus of women from rural regions in the mid-1960s to look for work as ‘household help’ in the nation’s fast-growing capital city.
Catriona Murray’s Imaging Stuart Family Politics is an impressive book, both for its high level of original research, and for its balance of academic sophistication with accessibility.
As uncomfortable as it is for historians to admit, we cannot deny the veracity of the old adage, ‘history is written by the victors’. Before the advent of gender and feminist histories in the latter part of the last century, victors were almost all invariably men.
The history of the western European family has been an area of interest for social and cultural historians for several decades with the late medieval and early modern period central to debates about continuity and change in family life. An aspect of family life that has received little attention is the common experience of remarriage and living in a stepfamily.
Virtually every major male figure involved in England’s reformations was a product of one of England’s two universities, and biographers rightly recognise the importance of understanding people’s careers at Oxford and Cambridge to their later lives. Yet the institutional history of the universities themselves, especially Cambridge, has been neglected.
In one memorable incident related in Keith Thomas’s In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England, an unfortunate diner fell victim to poor table manners.
In Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 movie Bend it like Beckham, the football-loving principal protagonist Jess Bhamra, daughter of Punjabi parents living in Hounslow, is upbraided by her mother for being too keen on sports to be able to make ‘aloo gobi’ properly, which gives this dish the appearance of being a key component in the repertoire of any suitably marriageable Punjabi girl at the start
It is hard to tell a non-deterministic story about the shift from early modern to modern economic practices: the terms we use (‘modernity’, ‘capitalism’, ‘economic’), the questions we ask, and the conclusions we draw are all inevitably weighed down by what we think or know about economic life today.