Scotland's Domestic Life

Scotland's Domestic Life

Scotland's Domestic Life

Scotland's Domestic Life

Synopsis

The story of 'home life' in Scotland is one which is familiar and varied. This wide-ranging volume considers Scotland's domestic life by examining that variety and considering changes in the structures in which Scots have lived and the ways in which they have lived in those homes. The great advantage of studying domestic life is that it is something to which everyone can relate, no matter his or her background. Most of us are in some way already ethnologists of the home. Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology is a major project of the European Ethnological Research Centre in fourteen volumes. Its overall aim is to examine the interlocking strands of history, language and traditional culture within an international context and their contribution to the making of a national identity. Each volume is a detailed examination of a societal topic and can stand alone. Together, the fourteen volumes set a cultural benchmark for the new millennium and are of immense value to our understanding of what has shaped Scottish society today.

Excerpt

The volume on The Scottish Home, edited by Annette Carruthers and published by the National Museums of Scotland in 1996, lavishly illustrated in black and white and in colour, is in many ways a precursor to this present volume. It might have seemed that it provided the last word on the subject, and that there was little further room for more on ‘Scotland’s Domestic Life’. Here, then, was a problem. a comparable volume had already been planned for the Compendium series. Could we now find enough material to fill it, without duplication?

In a partial answer to this seeming difficulty, in a review of The Scottish Home in Folk Life 35 (1996–97), 102,1 noted that: ‘In general the authors show themselves to be more at home in elucidating the details of the homes of the middle and higher classes of society, though country living in small houses is not ignored’. Yet the great bulk of the population lived in more humble circumstances, in which function rather than decoration and display was the primary factor, in respect of use and sharing of space within the home, the forms and nature of furniture and furnishings, tools and equipment, and the conduct of social life and communal living in general. in the planning of this present substantial volume, Susan Storrier has assembled a strong supporting cast of authors who have more than made good the deficiency and have proved that there was no shortage of material, including a good deal that is new.

Nevertheless it is not simply a question of elite versus everyday. the first person to receive a PhD in folklore in the United States of America, at Indiana University, was Warren E Roberts, who developed a special expertise in the study of buildings, furniture, crafts and associated tools. in his book, Viewpoints on Folklife. Looking at the Overlooked (Ann Arbor, London, 1988), he notes that it ‘is sad but true that the great mass of humanity is simply overlooked when most people write or talk about the past and what life was like then’ (xiii). He therefore sees it as his task to study the ‘old, traditional way of life of the great mass of people who lived before the Industrial Revolution’ (xiv), and in his studies of material culture, he excludes from consideration, inter alia, the twentieth-century industrial era and the elite culture of the preindustrial era (16–17). Such exclusions do not now apply in ethnological studies, which take - or ought to take - into account the processes of historical change and social transformation that have been wrought over time in the living patterns of humanity at all levels. Annette Carruthers’ Scottish Home, therefore, is to be seen at one level as an essential complement to Scotland’s Domestic Life. Equally, other volumes in this Compendium series deal with aspects of the industrial world, and with the spiritual life and . . .

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