Intro - all members

SnakSocial history

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Intro - all members

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apr 14, 2008, 11:40 am

Well, there seem to be people joining already so I can only guess that it's not just me who's interested. Please let all your friends know too. I think it's one of those subjects that would really benefit from a discussion group as all our families, nationalities etc have a different social history all of their own so it should be a lot of fun swapping info.

A bit about my own interest - I am currently researching my family history which has led me down all kinds of meandering paths. My main interests are British history from the Victorians into the 20thC but any period has its own little gems to throw up. Because I'm an avid traveller to Greece I am also a bit obsessed with Greek social history too. I find fairly recent history (the past couple of hundred years) especially fascinating, because it is so close to home and touches on things my older relatives actually remember, which makes it seem very human to me. I wish I'd been equally interested when my grandparents were alive - there's so much I've missed out on that I will never know about now so, a word to the rest of you - if you have any really annoying old relatives with whom you don't think you have anything in common, just try and get them talking about 'the old days' - especially regarding what was different then from the world we live in now - I bet you'll suddenly discover what incredibly interesting people they really are and they will love you for it (and maybe leave you all their hidden fortunes - no, no! That's not why we're doing this!).

Maybe it's a good idea to start off with everyone chipping in a bit about their favourite period of history or what it is that interests them about the subject.

I can't believe I am so enthralled by history these days as I hated it at school - but then I do believe we had a particularly boring history teacher - naming no names (oh, blow it, she was Miss Collins, but I'm not telling you teh name of the school, she might sue me.)

apr 14, 2008, 11:42 am

Oh, and if there are any of you also researching your family tree/history I assume this group just has to be a must-join. Who knows, maybe we'll find later that genealogy deserves a group all of its own.

apr 14, 2008, 12:25 pm

apr 14, 2008, 12:26 pm

Thanks Fleela! Knew there mus be one somewhere!

apr 14, 2008, 4:50 pm

Sounds a really interesting group. I'm not researching my family history but my super sleuth mum is and I love hearing about her findings and seeing photos of relatives on her site. She also has some really interesting paraphanalia that she's collected along the way - letters, adverts, photos etc to do with the family that I think reveal fascinating things about the way people used to live.

My own historical interests lie in books (surprise!). I love a good Victorian mystery or bone chilling horror. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser is probably my favourite book of all time and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in Victorian life.

Redigeret: apr 14, 2008, 5:03 pm

I enjoy Anne Perry, mid nineteenth century through WWI and the Robin Page Victorian Mystery series.

apr 14, 2008, 5:52 pm

Nineteenth century US history with an emphasis on the US Civil War and its antecedents.

My own personal history: Italian immigrants who arrived in NYC in one way or another. I have lots of stories but very little hard data. Still, the stories more than make up for that lack.

apr 14, 2008, 11:19 pm

So far I am definitely a Tudor dynasty person. I just can't seem to get enough of it. Though, I am trying to expand my English court literature... and expand to other things too.

Currently, I'm reading Cold Mountain set during the Civil War. It's a slow read, but I think I like it so far.

apr 15, 2008, 7:08 am

Holl, have you read Alison Weir's Henry VIII King and Court? Although (as the title suggests) it is mainly about Henry himself it is a truly engrossing insight into what life was like for all other members of his court, from the nobles surrounding him, right down to the lowest and poorest of 'employees'.

apr 15, 2008, 3:44 pm

I was inspired to join this group after finishing Barack Obama's book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance...I really enjoyed it (much more than Audacity of Hope). Think I'm going to reread it.

apr 15, 2008, 3:54 pm

Oh great! Another newbie! So pleased to have you Runner. The book you mention sounds interesting and, presumably, more family history than politics if it has inspired you to join this group. Is there a particular period of history you especially like, or do you go for political lives, particular countries of origin or what? That's the beauty of this subject - every single person, country, historical period, occupation etc has its own social history so there's literally no end to where our favourite fields of interest can take us.

Redigeret: apr 16, 2008, 10:16 am

Wow! Just looked at the stats for this group. We already have 12 members! That's amazing!
ETA - And isn't it weird that none of our 'most shared' books are social history ones? Time to get swapping details, I think!

Redigeret: apr 16, 2008, 10:19 am

Ok, since I'm so literal minded, I need guidance here--what details do you have in mind? Ready to go!

Also, I have to say, that a number of my books don't look anything like "social history" but in reality are. It's just that they are focused on one period of time.

apr 16, 2008, 11:41 am

Can't really help you there as it's not a period I want to know about but I dare say others will want to know what you've got and what you thought of them. The civil war seems to be a very popular period amongst American historians.

apr 16, 2008, 2:32 pm

I have just posted a petition that desparately needs all the signatures it can get. Thank you so much

apr 16, 2008, 3:17 pm

>#11, Booksloth, right now my primary interests in terms of social history is the intersection of Islam with society (both Muslims and nonMuslims).

For example, there is a debate going on between readers of Matthias Kuntzel (author of Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11) and Andrew Bostom (author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims) and the much anticipated The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, due out by June. If violent jihad is inherent in Islam itself and traces itself through history (Bostom's argument) as opposed to primarily an invention of the Muslim Brotherhood of 20th century, spurred on by Nazism, then there are radical changes that need to be made in the way governments and concerned individuals seek to confront the jihad threat.

But besides the whole jihad issue, I'm also interested in how Islam and the Shia in particular connect with and find common cause with nonMuslim populations in fighting perceived economic and societal oppression and exploitation. This gets into issues such as socialism, capitalism, race relations, and more.

As for Barack Obama's book Dreams from My Father, you are correct that it's not much of a politics book. But it's way more than a family history book--it's an invitation to join Obama's journey through the world, offering observations about societal differences, struggles, with a view to integrating within oneself the parts of one's being that have a place in geographical, cultural, and societal places distinct one from another. He doesn't preach, he's more talking outloud, leaving the reader to reach his own conclusions. One thing for sure, the book shows an Obama very, very different--even opposite--from the one his critics are portraying with excerpts lifted out of context.

apr 21, 2008, 4:45 pm

#16 - you may find this website of interest:

apr 21, 2008, 8:52 pm

Thank you Windy.

apr 23, 2008, 5:58 am

Hello all. I am interested in social/cultural history of the US-anything up to 1945. I am especially interested in how different aspects of society cope with wars (I love the World Wars era), in particular women and children. Right now I am a struggling recent graduate. Currently I am reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, revised ed.

Yes, I am into genealogy, my website is .

Redigeret: apr 23, 2008, 6:33 am

Welcome to the group, Jem - lovely to have you! I may be your British counterpart as I love all that stuff about how ordinary people's lives were changed by the wars and how they coped with that. Obviously, (well, maybe not obviously, but anyway) my interest is more on the British/European side and if you ever develop an interest in how things were over here you could do worse than to have a trawl through my library. As I've just explained on another thread, I've just finished reading a wonderful book called Debs at War, which is about how the upper echelons of society found their lives changed too. Most of the reading I've done on the subject has concentrated very much on 'ordinary' working class families so it was interesting for me to see what war meant for the aristocracy too.

Redigeret: apr 27, 2008, 7:12 am

Well, I'm not exactly certain how to proceed, but maybe I'll reply to #19.

I read extensively in the American Civil War, enough to qualify me as a "buff', I suppose. I think for any American and others who might want to get a clearer understanding of why the US is what it is at the moment, some reading in this area is a must.

Since we're on the theme of social history, I can talk about two books, both of which I've recommended in another thread (so if there's an overlap, forgive me!).

One is Mary Chestnut's Civil War, which is the diary during the Civil War of Mary Chestnut, a South Carolinian member of the plantation aristocracy who was married to a prominent Confederate politician, James Chestnut. The diary is an amazing look at the attitudes and life of the southern aristocracy at that time.

Sherman's rationale for burning his way from Atlanta to Savannah was that the South had to be broken, particularly its women, whom he felt were urging their men on and wouldn't let them quit. If Mary Chestnut was representative (and I think she was of her class), then he was absolutely correct. The initial arrrogance, the uncertainty, then the fear and bitterness--and the increasing difficulty of living--are all there, along with the dramatic recording of trying to escape Sherman's army.

The other book that I still haven't finished but really like is Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering, which talks about the way Americans of that era, from Mary Todd Lincoln to ordinary people on both sides of the war dealt with the carnage. i wasn't impressed with the first chapter which deals with the sheer numbers of military deaths, but that's because I've read so much that I KNOW how many died at Gettyburg, Antietam, etc, and that there were nearly 650,000 deaths--military deaths from the war. I've seen the photographs before and have 3 or 4 books with reproductions from Matthew Brady and others, so again, for me that wasn't a big deal. But for others reading for the first time, she does an excellent job, particularly for those who are aghast at what are--comparatively speaking--the relatively trivial numbers of American war-related military deaths in the Iraq War--about 0.5% of the American Civil War deaths.

She covers what would be to most of us a macabre subject--death and dying, and how it was handled during an extraordinary time. She details the concept of the Good Death in a country that was very religious at the time, how funerals were handled, the difficulty of recovering bodies, the need for and many times lack of closure for grieving families, how grieving was handled in those days. It is an excellent book. Faust is the first female President of Harvard, and quite a scholar in this era. she's written several other books, most notably Mothers of Invention, about women in the slave-holding South that I intend to get one of these years (my TBR shelves--plural, yes--are so crammed right now I've stopped ordering books until my new bookcase is finished--whatever month that will be).

maj 3, 2008, 9:10 pm

Social history is of great interest to me, and I'm glad to join this group. I'll soon have a comment on the book I've just started -- a "biography" of the Verney family in England.

In the meantime, I've noticed a number of comments by members of this group on biographies or memoirs. You may want to consider joining the group called "Biographies, Memoirs, and Autobiographies." It has less action than I'd like to see and your participation would be welcome. There is certainly plenty of overlap between biography and social history.

maj 4, 2008, 5:49 am

Thanks for joining dwsact! Always a pleasure to see another member. The biogs group sounds interesting and I'll try and take a look at it later. I think this one (or would like to think, anyway) is perhaps broader in its brief (can you have a broad brief? I suppose you can have a brief broad, so I'll stick with it) and more general history lit, including fiction. I suspect we may overlap here with a couple of groups that I haven't yet been able to find but, when I suggested a while ago that it might be an idea to cross-reference similar groups, I was shot down in flames so I think we're stuck with multiples. Still, that doesn't stop us from joining as many as we like, does it? I'll definitely have a browse through he one you mention.

Speaking of fiction, I have just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (and I know there is another thread devoted entirely to that book too which I plan to aim myself at when I have the time). For those who don't know, the book is set in 12th C England and the story is centred around the building of a cathedral. The middle ages aren't really my period so I felt I'd learnt quite a bit from this book and the story and characters are utterly absorbing. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys big, fat historical fiction. Has anyone else read it?

Redigeret: maj 4, 2008, 7:35 am

Hi, just joined.

I am interested broadly in social history, particularly British.

Currently Victorian and Edwardian working class experiences, but also the English civil war and the Regency periods are latent interests which I hope I can build on over time.

Although others in my family are long term genealogical researchers, I have done a bit of work on 1 part of my family in 2006, and have just started a similar piece of work on a completely different part.

So this group should be helpful in several respects (not the least being a fruitful source of interesting literature - I hope).

maj 4, 2008, 11:16 am

Zeno! You're another Brit! I hadn't realised! Well, obviously a big welcome to start with. We certainly seem to have a wide range of historical periods here. I'm with you on the Victorian/Edwardians and I'm also quite keen these days on a lot of WW2 stuff - but only regarding the lives of the people involved - couldn't care less about the military stuff.

I think one of my all-time favourite books about the Victorians was The Victorian House (which was also televised, though I thought the book was way superior). Despite the title, it is much more about the people in the house than the house itself. It goes from room to room discussing the people whose lives revolved around that room - ie, the cook in the kitchen, the scullerymaid in the scullery to the owners of the house up in the drawing room (I believe there is also an Edwardian House too, though I haven't read it yet).

A couple of others you might like are The Victorian Underworld by Donald Thomas and The Table-Rappers; the Victorians and the Occult - both of them rather different from the usual historical fare and focussing on the types of people who are so often overlooked by many historians.

maj 4, 2008, 12:07 pm

Thanks for your welcome.

I think I may have read The Victorian Underworld, certainly a book of that title, though not sure of the author.

It is a really interesting subject. I am also fascinated by the underworld slang of the period - any books by Eric Partridge I snap up. He wrote about the english language in general, but wrote fascinatingly about slang, cant, hobson jobson and the like in several of his books.

maj 4, 2008, 1:26 pm

According to touchstones, there is at least one other Victorian Underworld, but then I guess they're probably all worth a read!

maj 5, 2008, 11:17 am

#23 my book group recently read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett but I couldn't get in to it. They had quite a discussion about it but I only managed something like 200 pages.

maj 5, 2008, 4:24 pm

That's a shame - I think you missed a goodie there. Maybe another time.

maj 6, 2008, 12:23 am

I'm not a rereader Booksloth. Once gone it's gone. There's too many other books.

jan 1, 2009, 7:00 am

>25 Booksloth: I recently enjoyed reading another of Judith Flanders' books - Consuming Passions - all about leisure activities, hobbies, sport, shopping, etc. in 19thC Britain.

Redigeret: jan 22, 2009, 4:46 am

I am enjoying Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd at the moment, and I think my enjoyment stems as much from the 'social history' of Stratford and of England generally during the 16th Century as it does from the details of W.S.'s journey to the heights of theatrical fame. Perhaps others with interest in Renaissance Europe's social history might like to join the new group: