Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Collection - Primary Sources

Quad City Pat, another friend of mine on Twitter, a man who dedicates his life to fighting the exploitation of children – and to fathering his own – shared a pair of letters from his grandfather, for Veterans Day.  The voice here is funny, vivid, and loving – and, as sources go for not only research, but for instruction in the tone of a character, and voice, these two short missives are an amazing resource for anyone working in the WWII period.

At The History Girls, H. M. Castor juxtaposes three stories.  First, she takes a personal look at one piece of a book, an original of which is up for auction in London.  Do you know what a “crawler” was ... ?  A harrowing definition, and a remarkable image, from Victorian England.  (We think of weakening eyesight as an irritation or a joke.  Imagine what life must have been like for someone to whom it meant the loss of livelihood.)  And don’t imagine this kind of desperation is a thing of the past ...

Second, Castor reminds us of this:  most of the soldiers of WWI (and, for that matter, most soldiers throughout history and the world) lived lives without privilege or prestige.  The rank and file do not go to war for glory.  They go to make a living.  And, so often, they serve us with their lives.  How many of us bargain with our bodies, our wellbeing, in order just to make a living?

And, finally, a contemporary thought on “easy meat”:  “park your conscience at the door.”  Castor’s post is an excellent look at the juxtaposition of three periods in British history, in our history – in the economy ... and the world.

For a lighter (or, at least, easier – it’s certainly bold visually) look at the past, even before the explosion of aniline dyes in 1856, even in the 1830s we can see a brilliance which belies the pastel watercolor images we seem to cherish of “The Past”.  Take a look at two fuschia dresses, one in satin, from the early Victorian period; the other in pineapple fiber cloth (!!) from Manila, and sporting the latest of those mid-century innovative chemical dyes.  It gets me thinking all over again about the resource toll humanity takes on the Earth, merely to cover ourselves.

1 comment:

TCW said...

Re: soldiers in WW1. In the UK, the outbreak of the war saw many men signing up as volunteers in what they saw as a noble war (and one that would be over by Christmas). There was a lot of social pressure to sign up (men who didn't were given white feathers in the street and often socially shunned) but conscription came quite late. Relatively few of those fighting were professional soldiers.