We are running a workshop at the Tenth Warwick Symposium on Parish Research ‘Parish Studies Today’ at the University of Warwick on Saturday 26 May 2012, 9-11am. Please click here for information about the Symposium.
Workshop: ‘From household to parish: the materiality of daily life’
Dr Catherine Richardson (University of Kent, School of English) and Dr Tara Hamling (University of Birmingham, History)
This session presents a research project in its early stages in order to facilitate an exchange of ideas amongst those working in parish research about the significance of the early modern household. The project itself explores how relatively ordinary people used domestic spaces and objects on a daily basis in early modern England – in other words it is about contemporary experience of household life. Our project is centred on four regions, one of which is the West Midlands. We are interested in how one might construct a ‘virtual day’, describing the daily patterns of domestic life from first waking to events in the night, through analysis of the physical spaces in which activities took place and the material objects that facilitated and shaped these activities. The project takes, then, a material cultural approach to the question, exploring how one might understand the relationship between documentary and extant material evidence in order to explore the ways in which a sense of place informs domestic life and conditions issues of belonging.
As location and its boundaries are central to our understanding of the household, we are therefore interested in the parish as a unit of study. To what extent does it define a ‘community of meanings’ within which individuals can understand their own domestic experiences relative to their peers’? How familiar were neighbours with one another’s’ houses, and how significant was the geographical shape of the parish in determining such familiarities? To what extent did its structures and organisation encourage such processes of comparison? What was the role of parish churches in the formation and policing of the kind of social connections which build communities? What are the relationships between the parish as ‘outside’ and the home as ‘inside’? And then, beyond the parish, how do the meanings generated there relate to the significance of the domestic in, say, the urban or rural setting of which a parish might form a part, or the wider arena of national politics?
We would like to use the session to start a wide-ranging discussion about just how these questions might be answered – how can we analyse domestic experience – with what sources and what methods? Although we take as our starting point the notion that a study of experience needs to take account of material evidence, exactly how might we do so – what kind of record linkage is possible between material and documentary evidence and how satisfying might such links be? How do we relate experience in different parishes and how useful are parishes as a way of helping historians to group the experiences of historical subjects?