BBC Two is currently airing another series of Back in Time for Dinner, which transports a modern day family to another era, on this occasion to the period spanning 1900 – 1949. The success of such television series, which recreate the day to day lives of people from earlier times, points to an enduring curiosity surrounding the history of domestic life, and an ongoing interest in the food people ate.
We have witnessed a similar level of interest from people who have used our Home Studies Collection, which appeals to everyone from the amateur cook to the social historian. It holds more than 700 books from the last 300 years covering everything from food production, preservation and technology, to home economics, family living and domestic and regional cookery. It includes works by Alexis Soyer, Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin, Elizabeth Raffald, Eliza Acton and Mrs Beeton. Here are a few highlights from the collection…
There are several examples of early manuscript ‘receipt’ books, or recipe books as they have come to be known, the earliest of which dates from 1686 and was compiled by Margaret Ormond. Unfortunately we know nothing about Margaret Ormond, or the other women who produced these hand-written recipe books, but there are much better known writers in the collection including Mrs Beeton, famous for her Book of Household Management. This is a publication which has undergone many reprints and the collection has several editions including the first published in 1861.
A lesser known writer is Elizabeth Raffald whose book The Experienced English Housekeeper is one which Beeton may have drawn upon for her own work. Raffald was an enterprising woman who lived in 18th century Manchester where, amongst other ventures, she ran a cookery school and catering business. The Experienced English Housekeeper was first published in 1767 and ran to many editions. The Home Studies Collection has two copies dating from 1794.
The Collection also reveals changes in culinary trends and social habits, including some of those featured in episode one of Further Back in time for Dinner such as the Edwardian chafing dish and daily afternoon tea.
Economic changes and their effects on household management can also be traced. There are several books which deal with the instruction of servants and housemaids but also books which show a move away from domestic service towards a servant-less home.
This runs alongside developments in technology and the introduction of labour saving devices for the housewife. Despite the changes brought about by these advances it is apparent throughout the material in the Collection that the woman’s role continued to be that of the housewife and homemaker.
The examples above represent a small sample of what can be found within the Collection which, in a similar vein to the BBC series, offers a fascinating and often entertaining glimpse into the everyday lives and domestic settings of past generations. The Home Studies Collection provides a substantial and valuable resource for research and academic study. If you are interested in finding out more about the Collection you can see a list of its contents here: Home Studies Collection
Books in the Collection can be viewed by appointment only. Please contact us in advance by email, telephone or in person with a list of the items you would like to see and we will arrange an appointment for you to view them.
Further Back in Time for Dinner continues on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 8.00pm.