History and Material Culture
A Student's Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources
Edited by Karen Harvey
Routledge – 2009 – 210 pages
Sources are the raw material of history, but where the written word has traditionally been seen as the principal source, today historians are increasingly recognizing the value of sources beyond text. In History and Material Culture, Karen Harvey embarks upon a discussion about material culture – considering objects, often those found surrounding us in day to day life, as sources, which can help historians develop new interpretations and new knowledge about the past.
Across ten chapters, different historians look at a variety of material sources from around the globe and across centuries to assess how such sources can be used to study history. While the sources are discussed from ‘interdisciplinary’ perspectives, each contributor examines how material culture can be approached from an historical viewpoint, and each chapter addresses its theme or approach in a way accessible to readers without expertise in the area.
In her introduction, Karen Harvey discusses some of the key issues raised when historians use material culture, and suggests some basic steps for those new to these kinds of sources. Opening up the discipline of history to new approaches, and introducing those working in other disciplines to historical approaches, this book is the ideal introduction to the opportunities and challenges of researching material culture.
'This collection of essays by eleven leading historians … offers a wealth of new insights into the burgeoning field of material culture studies.' – Ann E. McCleary, University of West Georgia, USA
'…a volume that appeals to both students and professionals for its accessibility and sophistication." – Hadley Kruczek-Aaron, State University of New York at Potsdam, USA
Introduction: History and Material Culture Karen Harvey 2. Practical Matters: Material Culture and Historical Research Karen Harvey 3. Object Biographies: From Production to Consumption Karin Dannehl 4. Using Buildings in Social History Anne Laurence 5. Style and Ornament as Evidence Andrew Morrall 6. Draping the Body and Dressing the Home: Exploring the Material Culture of Textiles and Clothing Beverly Lemire 7. High Design and Regional Cultures Helen Berry 8. Mundane Materiality, or, Should Small Things Still be Forgotten? Material Culture, Microhistories and the Problem of Scale Sara Pennell 9. Things and Historical Narratives Giorgio Reillo 10. Objects and Agency Angela McShane and Glenn Adamson