Wholealelolita Preface

I want to explore a more intimate,personal and physical sort of history, a history from he
inside out:one that celebrates the ordinary and charts the lives of the common man, woman and
child as the interact with the practicalities of their world. I want to look into the minds of our
ancestors and witness their hopes, fears and assumptions, no matter how apparently minor. In
short, I am in search of a history of those things that make up the day-to-day reality  of
life. What was it really like to be alive in a different time and place?
History came to life for me as a hobby, but once that spark was lit it quickly became a
passion and, finally , a profession. From the very start, an element of practical
experimentation has been key to the way I try to understand the past . I like to put
time and effort into studying the objects and tools that people made and used, and
I like to try methods, and apparoaches out of myself.

Take , for example, a dark wool coat lying in a drawer at a small museum in West Sussex.
Heavily worn and lined with a patchwork of fabrics, it belonged to a farm labourer
and dates back to the 1880s. The coat reminds us that here was a man who sweated
and left stains on his clothes, who physically felt the cold and whose wift spent
hours carefully and neatly sewing upthe tear still just visibel on the right-hand side,
next to the buttons. When  I look at that careful repair, I’m reminded of the sewing textbooks in
use in Victorian schools for working-class
children. A trawl through the bookshelves leads to a set of instructions, accompanied by
beautifully drawn diagrams. With needle and thread in hand, I can attempt to follw these
instructions on a tear in one of my own garments. His wife was evidently well trained(particularly
if my own struggles are to be noted).Questions spring forth. How widespread wa such needlework
education. and was it likely to have been women who carried out work. would my Victorian
forebears have been quicker? when would the have fitted such a chore into their day?
Such intimate details of a life bring a feling of connection with the people of the past and
also provide a route into the greater themes of thistory. As a tear in a man’s coat can lead one
to question the nature of mass education, or to look into the global nature of the textile
industry, so too the great sweeps of political and economic life bring us back to the personal .
the international campaign against slavery and the American Civil War Would , in combination,
have devastated the trade in cotton,driving weavers back into huger. this would have pushed up the price of the labourer’s coat,
making the repair more necessary.
Queen victorian’s reign spanned more than sixty years and encompassed vast social , political and economic
changes,. Industries rose and fell and scientific revolutions overturned the old understanding of how the
world worked. Peoples’s ideas of right and wrong were chanllenged , and legislation was dragged along in the
wake. with all thes different things going on, how then,can one talk about what it was like to be a ictorian?
This book is my attempt.It’s a personal exploration, following my own fascinations, questions and interests.
there is much that I have missed , and there are many excellecnt books tha relate in more detail the political
,economic and institutional shifts of the period. I aim to peer into the everyday corners of Victoria’s British
subjects and lead your where I have wandered in search ofthe people of her age.
I have chosen to move throuth the rhythm of the day, beginning with waking in the morning and finishing with
the activities of the bedroom, when the door finally closes. Where I can , I have tried to start with the
thoughts and feelings of individuals who were there, taken from diaries, letters and autobiographies and
expanding out into the magazines and newspapers, adverts and advice manuals that sought to inform and shape public
opinion. Glimpss of daily life can be found in items that people left behind, from clothes to shaving brushes,
toys, bus tickets and saucepans. More formal rules and regulation give a shape to the experience of living, from
the adoption of white lines to mark out of football pitch to the setting of a standard of achievement for school
In this hunt for the ordinary and the routine I have tried to experience elements of the life myself. Many of
these experiences came when I spent a year on a Victorian farm, and later some time at a pharmacist’s shop, over
several television series. Others have come as part of my own ongoing explorations:testing recipes , making
clothes, follwing hygiene regimes, whittling toy soldiers. All thes experiences have been useful,if not
always successful,and have helped me frame questions and think more critically about what the evidence is telling
us. Ultimately, there is also a degree of empathy and imagination involved. Let us begin then, with imagining
ourselves waking up at the end of Victorian night.

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