Among many of our New Year’s resolutions will be attempting to become trimmer and fitter after the usual extravagances of Christmas, especially in these strange times when many physical and social activities have been curtailed and more time spent indoors. Dieting, health and, for some, preoccupation with body image may have reached extremes in our modern world, yet such concerns are far from new. History reveals myriad attempts at weight management, from use of alcohol, pills, cigarettes and soap to healthy eating programmes.
As the Christmas cards come down for another year this month and some New Year wishes arrive in the post, I pause to remember that my own grandfather had at one time been a travelling salesman for Raphael Tuck & Sons, the greetings card and postcard manufacturer. I never met my granddad as he passed away the year before I was born, but my dad told me stories about his father packing his samples into the boot of a Morris Oxford 6 Special Coupe. I eventually got a picture of the car, from my cousin, and this showed the boxy vehicle with a large boot into which my grandfather could carry his cases of cards – though the framing of the snap leaves a bit to be desired where the photographer has cut off the nose of the vehicle.
It’s always disheartening when a murder goes unsolved, and a perpetrator does not face justice. Even in our modern age, with forensics and DNA, cases do not always get the kind of resolution we’d like. The recent BBC Wales series Dark Land, which I was the resident crime historian on, looked at four unsolved Welsh cases from the 20th century, and viewers have sent suggestions for other cases we could look at in response, showing that there are many cases that have left those involved with them with a sense of unfinished business. They have not seen a resolution – nobody has been locked up and made to pay for their crimes.
As coronavirus took over Britain, the public became increasingly interested in statistics regarding detected cases, deaths and data comparison with other countries. Our ancestors also took a great interest in statistics. However, looking at the evidence, can we trust the criminal data completed by the Victorians?
TheGenealogist has released more college and university registers into its expanding Educational Records collection, adding a quarter of a million additional individuals. This release includes records from England, Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand and even a college from Portugal.
Mudlarking – scavenging for items of value in the shores of a river – has been documented along the Thames and elsewhere for more than two centuries, and continues to this day as a pastime. This volume brings together for the ﬁrst time a wide variety of 19th century sources about the mudlarks of history and the hardships they faced. A perfect companion to Lara Maiklem’s popular recent book Mudlarking.
As in many industries, technological advances brought mechanisation and mass production to the leather trade during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some sectors progressed, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of our ancestors, while other practices and products grew outmoded, inspiring new ways of processing and using leather.
London has always been a city of renewal – plagues and fires have decimated its population and scarred its buildings, but every time it has recovered and rebuilt itself bigger and better than before. Little wonder, then, that so many of our ancestors were drawn there, whether from dwindling rural settlements around the country or from countries across the globe.
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