What the Victorians Threw Away

Research output: Book/ReportBook


An account, and object-story, of the origins of our throwaway society in the period 1870-1914, told through the artefacts excavated from three rubbish dumps.

The people who lived in England before the First World War now inhabit a realm of yellow photographs. Theirs is a world fast fading from ours, yet they do not appear overly distant. Many of us can remember them as being much like ourselves. Nor is it too late for us to encounter them so intimately that we might catch ourselves worrying that we have invaded their privacy. Digging up their refuse is like peeping through the keyhole. How far off are our grandparents in reality when we can sniff the residues of their perfume, cough medicines, and face cream? If we want to know what they bought in the village store, how they stocked the kitchen cupboard, and how they fed, pampered, and cared for themselves there is no better archive than a rubbish tip within which each object reveals a story. A simple glass bottle can reveal what people were drinking, how a great brand emerged, or whether an inventor triumphed with a new design. An old tin tells us about advertising, household chores, or foreign imports, and even a broken plate can introduce us to the children in the Staffordshire potteries, who painted in the colours of a robin, crudely sketched on a cheap cup and saucer.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxbow Books
Number of pages208
ISBN (Print)9781782978756
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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