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. How far off are our grandparents in reality when we can sniff the residues of their perfume, cough medicines, and face cream? If we want to know what they bought in the village store, how they stocked the kitchen cupboard, and how they fed, pampered, and cared for themselves there is no better archive than a rubbish tip within which each object reveals a story. A simple glass bottle can reveal what people were drinking, how a great brand emerged, or whether an inventor triumphed with a new design. An old tin tells us about advertising, household chores, or foreign imports, and even a broken plate can introduce us to the children in the Staffordshire potteries, who painted in the colours of a robin, crudely sketched on a cheap cup and saucer.
In this highly readable and delightfully illustrated little book Tom Licence reveals how these everyday minutiae, dug from the ground, contribute to the bigger story of how our great grandparents built a throwaway society from the twin foundations of packaging and mass consumption and illustrates how our own throwaway habits were formed.
Tom Licence is a Senior Lecturer in medieval history at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. He specialises in ecclesiastical history, with a particular interest in monastic history in the central Middle Ages. He has published on topics ranging from the spirituality of the Knights Templar and Hospitaller, through Cistercian spirituality, saints' cults, monastic foundation narratives, public spectacle, and the role of hermits and recluses in society. His hobby, however, is hunting for things.
Preface Introduction 1. Labourers'cottages in Kent 2. A postman's rubbish in Shropshire 3. A Norfolk rectory Conclusions Further reading Places to visit