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This book concerns two men, a stockingmaker and a magistrate, who both lived in a small English village at the turn of the nineteenth century. It focuses on Joseph Woolley the stockingmaker, on his way of seeing and writing the world around him, and on the activities of magistrate Sir Gervase Clifton, administering justice from his country house Clifton Hall. Using Woolley's voluminous diaries and Clifton's magistrate records, Carolyn Steedman gives us a unique and fascinating account of working-class living and loving, and getting and spending. Through Woolley and his thoughts on reading and drinking, sex, the law and social relations, she challenges traditional accounts which she argues have overstated the importance of work to the working man's understanding of himself, as a creature of time, place and society. She shows instead that, for men like Woolley, law and fiction were just as critical as work in framing everyday life.Read more
- Innovative and accessible microhistory by one of Britain's leading social historians which reframes the broader narrative of the making of the English working class
- Based on rich records of everyday life at the beginning of the nineteenth century from two men at opposite ends of the social spectrum
- Integrates social history and legal history to show the importance of the law in the everyday life of working families
Reviews & endorsements
"That it is so beautifully written in Steedman's direct, inimitable style, so thoughtfully structured, so deeply read and footnoted, so teasing and suggestive, means that it is essential reading for anyone interested in the lives of working peoples in early nineteenth-century England. Without doubt it is the most important, and impressive, contribution to understanding the worlds of rural workers since Barry Reay's Microhistories."
Carl Griffin, Family and Community HistorySee more reviews
"… a well-informed, amusing and poignant account of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century working people. … highly recommended …"
Dave Putson, The Spokesman
"Steedman provides a vision of working-class life through the eyes of a worker who did not describe his life in terms of political agitation or the development of political ideas … Steedman’s books are so rewarding not just because they illuminate the lives of people in the past with such vivid clarity but because she makes you think about what it means to be a historian and about how we, as individual historians, could and should undertake our own investigations."
Hannah Barker, Journal of British Studies
"Woolley’s diaries might have lingered unseen in the Nottinghamshire Archives if not for Steedman’s recognition and reevaluation of these works."
Dawn Whatman, John Clare Society Journal
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- Date Published: January 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107670297
- length: 312 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
- weight: 0.42kg
- contains: 8 b/w illus. 2 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Prologue: what are they like?
1. An introduction, shewing what kind of history this is, what it is like, and what it is not like
2. Books do furnish a mind
3. Family and friends
4. Fears as loyons: drinking and fighting
5. Sex and the single man
6. Talking law
7. Earthly powers
8. Getting and spending
9. Knitting and frames
10. The knocking at the gate: General Ludd
11. Some conclusions about writing everyday.
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