Richard Blakemore, ‘Finding fragments – the past and the future’

the many-headed monster

[This is the first piece in ‘The Future of History from Below’  online symposium (#historyfrombelow). Richard Blakemore is an Associate Research Fellow at the University of Exeter working on the ‘Sailing into modernity’ research project. His doctoral work and recent publications focus on early modern seafarers, especially those based in London during the civil wars. He also blogs at historywomble.]

If we want to get at history from below, where do we start looking? Traditionally social historians, at least of medieval and early modern Europe, have relied upon two kinds of records to recover the ‘voices’ of those people who did not deliberately create a lot of records themselves. The first kind is court records and other legal documents such as wills and inventories, contracts, and so on. Because many people encountered the legal machinery of the state in which they lived (which included, for much…

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