After the hyper-consumerism of the recent festive season, were you the one carrying the old wrapping paper, used tinfoil and discarded detritus to the rubbish bin?
We follow in a long tradition, arguably in the foot steps of the Victorians, who were the first ‘throw-away society’ according to Dr. Tom Licence of the University of East Anglia.
The Victorian advances in packaging, branded products and new routes to market in retail confirmed the ‘disposability of things’ for the Victorian householder.
As part of the UEA in London series of events, you can hear Dr. Licence discussing ‘What the Victorians threw away’
Thursday 26 January, 6.30pm – What the Victorians threw away – Dr Tom Licence, UEA
Regent Street Cinema, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2UW
‘In this lecture, Tom will use items excavated from rubbish dumps to show how our throwaway habits developed. He will explore Victorian ideas about re-use and re-cycling, and link emerging patterns of waste-creation to the growth of western consumerism’.
You can visit Tom’s archive of objects, disposed of by your great, great grandparents, on his web site – http://www.whatthevictoriansthrewaway.com/ The web pages also contain fascinating insights to what the East Anglians threw away too.
His book is available here in both paperback and Kindle editions…
‘The people who lived in England before the First World War now inhabit a realm of yellow photographs. Theirs is a world fast fading from ours, yet they do not appear overly distant.
Many of us can remember them as being much like ourselves. Nor is it too late for us to encounter them so intimately that we might catch ourselves worrying that we have invaded their privacy. Digging up their refuse is like peeping through the keyhole‘.
We are always excited about books and book production in the conversationsEast office. In 2016 we seemed to have a very ‘bookish’ year all in all.
We enjoyed a visit to Seven Stories in Newcastle to look at the development of an author and the creation of the written artefact through the work of Michael Mopurgo. See more here.
We also happily supported the a new issue of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, an endeavour delivered across the globe from the print works of Kronecker Wallis in Barcelona, Spain. Revisit the work here.
In 2017 the conversationsEAST team have sworn an oath to finally deliver their draft arts journal, artSUFFUSION, and to expand the range of contributors to our pages in the hope of stimulating interest in arts, culture, history and all the other things that occupy our minds during the working day.
As we were unpacking another delivery of books in the intervening quiet days betwixt the festive holiday and New Year, we were pondering, as we tackled another Open Office document and posted several WordPress pages onto our servers for clients. How far have we come in terms of print production?
The Italians took a long look at the subject, the now pre-historic hot metal typesetting process, in 1960.
Whilst some time later, nearly sixty years in fact, an American production giant revealed how the introduction of micro-processor and the refinement of mechanical processes enabled tens of thousands of printed copies to be created within three short days.
We thought the passage of time and socio-economic difference was wonderfully reflected in the the comparison between the be-suited operators of the Lino-type machines, half man, half machine, seemingly embedded in their mechanisms as their typing materialised from hot metal reservoirs, into hard gobbets of text, for onward transmission to other people and process.
The contrast underscored by the modern, casually dressed and processor driven work environment of a contemporary print house. We noted the lack of people populating the production landscape in the latter. The ‘white collar’ aspects of the book now taking place remotely, no longer a craft skill in an industrial setting. A true sign of our times?
Whatever changes 2017 brings, a happy New Year to our readers from the conversationsEast team.
Part of our work, with sister projects, is as booksellers and publishers. It has been interesting to reflect that we are in a continuing tradition, dating back to the 18th Century.
When we are talking to our partner publishers, or delivering projects overseas, it all feels rather contemporary. But good writing and creative, imaginative work for children is what led us to the work in the first place. It is a timeless pursuit for every cohort we supply and engage with over the years.
Matthew Grenby writes…
”The rise of children’s literature throughout the 18th century.
By the end of the 18th century, children’s literature was a flourishing, separate and secure part of the publishing industry in Britain. Perhaps as many as 50 children’s books were being printed each year, mostly in London, but also in regional centres such as Edinburgh, York and Newcastle.
By today’s standards, these books can seem pretty dry, and they were often very moralising and pious. But the books were clearly meant to please their readers, whether with entertaining stories and appealing characters, the pleasant tone of the writing, or attractive illustrations and eye-catching page layouts and bindings.
Early writing for children
This was new. At the beginning of the century very few such enjoyable books for children had existed. Children read, certainly, but the books that they probably enjoyed reading (or hearing) most, were not designed especially for them.
Fables were available, and fairy stories, lengthy chivalric romances, and short, affordable pamphlet tales and ballads called chapbooks, but these were published for children and adults alike. Take Nathaniel Crouch’s Winter-Evenings Entertainments (1687). It contains riddles, pictures, and ‘pleasant and delightful relations of many rare and notable accidents and occurrences’ which has suggested to some that it should be thought of as an early children’s book. However, its title-page insists that it is ‘excellently accommodated to the fancies of old or young’.
Meanwhile, the books that were published especially for children before the mid-18th century were almost always remorselessly instructional (spelling books, school books, conduct books) or deeply pious. Yet just because a book seems dull or disciplinary to us today, this doesn’t mean that children at the time didn’t enjoy it. Godly books of the sort produced from the 1670s by Puritans like John Bunyan are a case in point.
James Janeway’s A Token for Children (1671-72) gives what its subtitle describes as ‘an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children’. These children lie on their deathbeds, giving accounts of the sins too often committed by children – idleness, disobedience, inattention to lessons, boisterousness, neglecting the Sabbath – but tell those assembled round them that salvation awaits all who renounce such wickedness, and they explain how happy they are to be going to their eternal reward. Hardly fun, we might think, yet memoirs and letters, as well as continuing sales over more than a century, testify to young readers’ genuine enjoyment of these descriptions of heroic and confident, if doomed, children.
The 18th century
In the first half of the 18th century a few books that didn’t have an obviously instructional or religious agenda were published especially for children, such as A Little Book for Little Children (c.1712), which included riddles and rhymes ; and a copiously illustrated bestiary, A Description of Three Hundred Animals (1730), the second part of which was published ‘particularly for the entertainment of youth’.
But the turning point came in the 1740s, when a cluster of London publishers began to produce new books designed to instruct and delight young readers.
Thomas Boreman was one, who followed his Description of Three Hundred Animals with a series of illustrated histories of London landmarks jokily (because they were actually very tiny) called the Gigantick Histories (1740-43). Another was Mary Cooper, whose two-volume Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744) is the first known nursery rhyme collection, featuring early versions of well-known classics like ‘Bah, bah, a black sheep’, ‘Hickory dickory dock’, ‘London Bridge is falling down’ and ‘Sing a song of sixpence’.
The father of children’s literature
But the most celebrated of these pioneers is John Newbery, whose first book for the entertainment of children was A Little Pretty Pocket-Book Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly (c.1744).
It was indeed a pretty book, small, neat and bound in brightly coloured paper, and Newbery advertised it as being sold with a ball (for a boy) and a pincushion (for a girl) – these toys were to be used to record the owner’s good and bad deeds (by means of pins stuck either to the black side of the ball or pincushion, or the red). Newbery’s books perfectly embodied the educational ideas of John Locke, who had advocated teaching through amusement.
But Newbery has become known as the ‘father of children’s literature’ chiefly because he was able to show that publishing children’s books could be a commercial success. This may have been because he made most of his money from selling patent medicines, and by publishing for adults
Nevertheless, his children’s book business flourished, and, following his death in 1767, it was taken over by his descendants, surviving into the 19th century. Newbery was a great innovator too. He produced the first children’s periodical for example, called The Lilliputian Magazine (1751-52), a miscellany of stories, verse, riddles and chatty editorials.
And his most famous work, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765) has a good claim to be called the first children’s novel. It tells the story of a poor orphan, Margery, who makes a career for herself as a teacher before, like a less glamorous Cinderella (with no fairy godmother, balls to attend, or glass slipper), she marries the local landowner who she has impressed by her honesty, hard work and good sense.
A rapid expansion of children’s literature
The reasons for this sudden rise of children’s literature have never been fully explained. The entrepreneurial genius of figures like Newbery undoubtedly played a part, but equally significant were structural factors, including the growth of a sizeable middle class, technical developments in book production, the influence of new educational theories, and changing attitudes to childhood.
Whatever the causes, the result was a fairly rapid expansion of children’s literature through the second half of the 18th century, so that by the early 1800s, the children’s book business was booming. For the first time it was possible for authors to make a living out of writing solely for children, and to become famous for it. Children’s literature, as we know it today, had begun”.
Imagining the world without the web as an intellectual resource is almost impossible now. All those decades ago, applying for your research and travel grants to gain a foothold aboard ship or achieve landfall in another country, to see and hear academics speak, or to consult texts, is now long a thing of the past.
With the advent of on-line resources comes the inevitable change in publication policy and the context of publication review and update. The two resources below represent some of the best examples of access to classic historical thought and an easy flow into current thinking and research.
An invaluable on-line publication which delivers insightful and contemporary research into philosophical thought and related disciplines. The works included in the encyclopedia are drawn from and embedded with the best practices of rigorous academic review, from…
those persons with accredited Ph.D.s in Philosophy (or a related discipline) who have published refereed works on the topic of the proposed entry. By refereed works we mean either articles in respected, peer-reviewed journals or books which have been published by respected publishing houses and which have undergone the usual peer review process prior to publication.
However, what is interesting, is the editorial board’s commitment to review and updating of texts, which affords the invited authors of the works published the opportunity to amend , annotate or add to their original work as their research or trends in their chosen discipline demand change.
It is the a way of using the web to refresh and renew the encyclopedia in front of your eyes, with an immediacy and currency that is generally impossible in traditional paper and binding formats. It doesn’t replace the book, it supplements it.
The author of this short piece had a well respected friend who, in the early days of the internet (…the 1990’s now seem such a long time ago) was well read, but who decried the ‘web’ as irrelevant. Pages full of ‘blue links’ was how he described it. Whilst then perhaps an accurate description, it is is a terrible disparagement of the hyperlink.
My response today would be to get him to click through to the Harvard Classics. Whether your interests are in Plato, Milton or Robert Burns there is much to enjoy here.
They who set themselves to give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of greater skill than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular, they subject themselves to censure…
You can also enjoy the fruits of the novelist too. Fiction from Walter Scott, Tolstoy and Balzac are freely available. Being tempted to read online offers choice in terms of format. All the works in the Gutenberg Harvard Classics canon are available in your web browser, ePub versions and for your Kindle or downloadable as plain text files.
Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
G.M. Trevelyan in English Social History (1942), quoted above, perhaps rather cruelly prefigured the future critique in Richard Hoggart’s work The Uses of Literacy (1957). Hoggart’s thesis was that the ‘massification’ of culture has detached communities and individuals from their traditional ‘urban culture’.
That popular culture had de-classed society and debased, to some extent, the feeling for history or cultural connection across communities. Whilst it is inescapably evident that the internet and access to technology has irrevocably changed society, there is still a demand for classic literature and the wrangling with challenging thought.
We think the modern, Western autodidact doesn’t necessarily spend long days in the community library anymore alas, rather he or she inhabits the web world to educate and inform the mind.
We offer the hyperlinks above as evidence of our argument!
We recently published details of the work of Fellows in Essex and their appearance at the Essex at War event at Hylands House. Their project, Chelmsford Remembers, will be part of this exciting day on Sunday, 14th September. (Revisit it here…)
Below are programme details for the event in full. Displays, re-enactments and research help will be delivered during the day. There will be an impressive range of talks across the day taking place in The Pavilion from 10.30am. (Our RSA Regional Chair, Malcolm Noble, will be officiating we understand…Ed).
Importantly, don’t forget to visit the Chelmsford Remembers RSA team, who will be available all day in the Hanbury Suite of Hylands House.
conversationsEAST will be there on the day, camera and notepad at the ready, so look out for a future, feature length article about the event and Fellow involvement in it.
We do hope you will come along and support the Fellow led project at Hylands House. This is a glorious setting for such a wide-ranging event. There’s a lot of history in Essex, some of it researched and supported by Fellows of The RSA.
‘Each of us narrates our lives as it suits us…’ says Elena Ferrante in her novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. it is possible to recognise the great truth in this reflection. We strive to become what it is we want to be, even sometimes presenting a face to the world that we do not, in truth, cleave to inside us.
Now technology can map our journey from beginning to end. The humble laptop or mobile device can show this life track to the casual visitor. The wonder of the novel is it’s ability to draw us into the individual life, to be able to join the sole reflection of the journey.
The visual displayed below shows the power of aggregation. Making moving pictures of the lives of many. From their birth to the place of their death. In the aggregation comes another story.
It is an informative, broad brush canvas about the creation of communities, cities and centres of culture. It is also, to our mind, both art and science.
Researchers at The University of Texas, Dallas have tracked the beginning and end of life of notable figures in history from 600BC to the present day.
The database of notables was drawn from Freebase, a Google owned data service, and the skills and enterprise of the individuals is seen as a proxy for the spread of culture across the globe.
It is a ‘western’ view of cultural dissemination. It omits much influence drawn from the movement of Asian and African peoples through time. One of the most stunning sequences in the film is the movement of people from the east coast of the USA to the west.
It does visualise the rising importance of the West Coast, particularly in the Twentieth Century. Showing how inevitable the collapse of Native American culture had become.
On balance, a great presentation that shows the cultural spread of European ideas, over space and time.
The weekend of June 28th 2014 marked the centenary of the death of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. Arguably sparking the events that put in train the First World War.
This reflection revealed a surprising and diverse range of resources about the Great Conflict. Many, perhaps, at odds with the perceived understanding of the war and its consequences. Remarkable in as much that so much is yet to be discovered, even after a century has passed…
His ambitions were arguably localised, national, but the outcome of his act was trans-continental. With the destruction to come, the terrible devastation of war, linked to and having an unfortunate long echo back to the previous tumultuous tragedies in France during the 15th Century. The anguish is contemporary still.
Allas! what peple hathe your werre slayne!
What cornes wastede, and doune trode and shent!
How many a wyfe and maide hathe be forlayne,
Castrels doune bete, and tymbered houses brent
And drawen doune, and alle tortore and rent!
The harme ne may not rekened be ne tolde;
This werre wexethe all to hore and olde…
Thomas Hoccleve, Poet & Clerk, London
‘An appeal for Peace in France’ (1412)
Princip, part of a team of six Bosnian-Serb radicals dedicated to their plan, was standing outside a cafe in Franz Josef Street, reflecting on an earlier failed assassination attempt upon the Austrian Archduke by a co-conspirator that day. When, seeing the royal vehicle, engine stalled after taking a wrong turn, he leapt forward with his revolver, and from a distance of five feet, changed history.
This story of ‘cataclysm by happenstance’ continues to provoke debate and divide about how the next few months saw progress into war, but also about the wider legacy of Princip’s actions, even after a hundred years has passed. The narratives still differ, both historic and contemporary, often in surprising ways.
Modern Sarajevo remains a divided city, politically and culturally, to this day. With Princip seen as hero or devil depending upon the view of historical events taken from the city centre. To mark the Sarajevan centenary Andrew MacDowall, in The Guardian newspaper, has written an interesting and insightful article on how stands the political front-line concerning Princip.
In Eastern Sarajevo, from the view point of the Serb Republic, Princip is a national hero,. His actions freeing the city from Austrian dominance. However, for the Bosnian Muslim population Princip’s actions bought about an end to a golden era of Austrian administration. The Muslim population look to the grand edifices of civil society, schools and railways of the Austrian Empire as evidence of their argument.
Even after a hundred years, residents of a strife torn city cannot agree on a single, conciliatory view of their history. This set us thinking about that sunny day in 1914. What were, or what did, contemporaries to Princip think about the coming events and their out turn?
We turned to the Project Gutenberg on-line library. Looking through the project’s World War 1 bookshelf we discovered, amongst the usual, deeply moving and contemporary military narratives, a surprising and very different view of events and understanding of the ‘culture’ of war, particularly of conflict in other places.
This writer did not know of a Mills and Boon, Kiplingesque literary oeuvre developed around events of the war. Deeply at odds with the first person narrative of other, military writers, but perhaps born of a then contemporary optimism for Empire, incomplete knowledge and the heady ‘home by Christmas’ approach.
The Gutenberg archive also makes available to the general reader a selection of European political writing on the Great War. We found the account of pre-war diplomacy and events from Viscount Haldane both disturbing and revealing about political attitudes and actions towards European conflict. See more here…
Margaret Vandercook in her The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army, (John Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1916) writes about war and combat as a sort of Mills & Boon romance adventure. Dashing young men in foreign places, capturing the swooning hearts of kindly young women. Published in 1916, it arguably represents a canon of juvenile fiction, that was blind to, or unknowing of the true horror of warfare at any front-line.
There is a sort of breathless, adventure story pace to the book, at odds with the newsreel and written narratives we have come to know about the Great War and other conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.
There is in this bookshelf collection a fascinating insight into the power of Empire and the loyalty created in military service.
In Talbot Munday’s Hira Singh – When India Came to Fight in Flanders lies the fictionalised story of a group of Sikh soldiers captured by the German army in Flanders and transported back to ‘Constantinople’, who then escaped and marched overland to Kabul in Afghanistan to rejoin the British Army in their fight in Europe again.
One hundred Indian troops of the British Army have arrived at Kabul, Afghanistan, after a four months’ march from Constantinople. The men were captured in Flanders by the Germans and were sent to Turkey in the hope that…they might join the Turks. But they remained loyal to Great Britain and finally escaped, heading for Afghanistan. They now intend to join their regimental depot in India, so it is reported.
New York Times, July, 1915 (Talbot Munday)
Although fiction, with some of the language jarring by modern cultural norms, and being written by a European, the story none the less provides insights into the nature of leadership, how men who were accomplished warriors from another culture, might have seen the conflict in Europe with empathetic eyes.
The archive does not contain any reflection from Indian sources, but when looking at the contribution of the Indian Army and Marine service to the conflict, there is little doubt that support there was.
How profound, prompted a look at the detail of the contribution of the Indian Army in the Great War? Details of the 1 million Indian troops who served in France, Mesopotamia and other battle zones can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web pages. See more here…
Closer to home are a range of projects and community activities to remember the Great War in detail. One such is the work done by Fellows in Chelmsford, as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project – Chelmsford Remembers, and which will be launched as part of the Essex Remembers event, which involves both Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council, to held at Hylands House on the weekend of 13th/14th September.
We look forward to supporting Fellows in the project by delivering a ‘web special feature’ about this exciting social history journey of discovery. (You can find the Chelmsford War Memorial web site here – this is a wonderful resource, with images and detailed biographies of the 359 men commemorated on the Great War Memorial in Chelmsford, Ed.)
Even after one hundred years, the local and social is as telling and moving as ever. Princip would probably still recognise the physical landscape old Sarajevo, if not the political one, whilst great new discoveries and insights lay waiting in the family archives of Chelmsford we suspect.
A new web resource, dedicated to the art, politics and history of the great conflict. Referencing major UK museum collections, but also providing insights into history from a surprising variety of sources.
A new resource offering insights into how ‘… it was the ordinary men and women who were affected the most. This exhibition gives those personal accounts from across Europe for the first time, based on stories and items contributed by the public’.
In the last two weeks the BBC have launched a new set of web pages and content dedicated to the arts. The material , as you would expect from the Corporation, is diverse and stimulating, with a fresh feel in terms of web layout and visual impact we thought. It draws upon television, radio and web outputs to create a new miscellany.
Below are some of the items we have found interesting at conversationsEAST this week.
Both are of a historical bent, with historian Niall Ferguson opining on how young students now see and re-act to the First World War. A topical segment from the 2014 Hay Festival, with brief contributions from Rosie Boycott and Kate Adie.
Niall Ferguson, ever controversial, begins by describing the teaching of history about the First World War in the UK as, essentially, education about the Home Front. The lack of familial links for young people to the events of 1914 onwards make the story of the Battle of the Somme as relevant as the Battle of Thermopylae, thus the concentration on social history.
The Ferguson thesis on how students see The First World War is encouragingly developed to include how contemporary learners, Ferguson argues, are now very interested in strategic calculation and miscalculation.
This is a credible argument for a return to interest in the prevailing political frameworks by students of 1914. The less comfortable summation is completed by references to the teaching of the impact of the First World War as a video game…perhaps something of an unfortunate trivialisation of all the stories of loss, destruction and bravery that will emerge as the centenary of the conflict is remembered this year?
Have a look at the clip above and see if you agree?
You can see details of Changing Chelmsford’s First World War: Then and Now programme on our projects page. This is a Lottery funded project between RSA Fellows and the local Civic Society which pertinently concentrates on the historical context of the Home Front, under-scoring the very real social and economic impact of war to the Fellows credit…despite the Fergusonian treatise on domestic history above.
We loved the fact that the project was filmed on a smartphone, with very modest funding. The finished piece will be premiered today at the Go North Festival in Inverness.
We thought what a great project, harnessing the power of ubiquitous modern technology, to create a story about a community. An ideal medium for a local arts/history project for Fellows in the region perhaps? Detailing the currency of everyday lives, to to be made enduringly available on the web.
We warmed to the new BBC Arts amalgam and will revisit its news feed regularly. See more here…
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