Sources are the raw material of History, but whereas the written word has traditionally been seen as the principal source, historians now recognize the value of sources beyond text. In this new edition of History and Material Culture, contributors consider a range of objects – from an eighteenth-century bed curtain to a twenty-first-century shopping trolley – which can help historians develop new interpretations and new knowledge about the past.
Containing two new chapters on healing objects in East Africa and the shopping trolley in the social world, this book examines a variety of material sources from around the globe and across centuries to assess how such sources can be used to study the distant and the recent past. In a revised introduction, Karen Harvey discusses some of the principal issues raised when historians use material culture, particularly in the context of 'the material turn', and suggests some initial steps for those unfamiliar with these kinds of sources. While the sources are discussed from interdisciplinary perspectives, the emphasis of the book is on what historians stand to gain from using material culture, as well as what historians have to offer the broader study of material culture.
Clearly written and accessible, this book is the ideal introduction to the opportunities and challenges of researching material culture, and is essential reading for all students of historical theory and method.
List of illustrations
List of contributors
Introduction: Historians, material culture and materiality
1 – Things that shape history: material culture and historical narratives
2 – Ornament as evidence
3 – Back yards and beyond: landscapes and history
4 – Draping the body and dressing the home: the material culture of textiles and clothes in the Atlantic world, c. 1500-1800
5 – Using buildings to understand social history: Britain and Ireland in the seventeenth century
6 – Pushed around: material culture, dispossession, and the American shopping cart
7 – Repurposed objects and performance: ritual acts of healing in East Africa
8 – Object biographies: from production to consumption
9 – Regional identity and material culture
10 – Objects and agency: material culture and modernity in China
11 – Mundane materiality, or, should small things still be forgotten? Material culture, micro-histories and the problem of scale
12 – The case of the missing footstool: reading the absent object