A History of Everyday Life in Scotland 1600 to 1800

A History of Everyday Life in Scotland 1600 to 1800

A History of Everyday Life in Scotland 1600 to 1800

A History of Everyday Life in Scotland 1600 to 1800

Synopsis

This volume explores the experience of everyday life in Scotland over two centuries characterised by political, religious and intellectual change and ferment. It shows how the extraordinary impinged on the ordinary and reveals people's anxieties, joys, comforts, passions, hopes and fears. It also aims to provide a measure of how the impact of change varied from place to place. The authors draw on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including the material survivals of daily life in town and country, and on the history of government, religion, ideas, painting, literature, and architecture. As B. S. Gregory has put it, everyday history is an endeavour that seeks to identify and integrate everything all relevant material, social, political, and cultural data that permits the fullest possible reconstruction of ordinary life experiences in all their varied complexity, as they are formed and transformed.'

Excerpt

It must be remembered that life consists not of a series of illustrious actions, or
elegant enjoyments; the greater part of our time passes in compliance with neces
sities, in the performance of daily duties, in the removal of small inconveniences,
in the procurement of petty pleasures … The true state of every nation is the state
of common life.

In 1775 Samuel Johnson sat down to write an account of his journey around the western islands of Scotland, which he had undertaken two years before accompanied by James Boswell. His belief that it was the ‘necessities’, ‘daily duties’ and ‘petty pleasures’, that provided the greatest insights into the life of a nation, led him to write what was in effect a detailed account of everyday life in eighteenth-century Scotland, and earned him the gratitude of social historians ever since. Johnson was not alone in his attempt to capture the everyday. When the foundation stone of the bridewell on Calton Hill was laid in Edinburgh in 1791, it was decided to insert two glass bottles. One contained a list of names of the city magistrates and officers of the Grand Lodge; the other the Edinburgh Almanack and a copy of each of the city’s four newspapers. It is certainly intriguing to ponder why these items were selected, and what contemporaries hoped future generations would learn by setting these representations of everyday city life into stone. It may well be that by the end of the eighteenth century there was a growing sense of change in everyday life. In the early modern period it is clear that everyday life could be, and was, affected by larger ‘national’ events. These, however, were sometimes transitory or temporary, leaving the underlying structures of everyday living more or less intact. These have to be identified. But there were also processes, developments and changes that, over time, altered aspects of the everyday, irrevocably. As this Introduction will outline, and the chapters that follow will demonstrate, population growth, urbanisation, changes to the rural economy and political and religious upheaval all had an impact on the daily patterns, rhythms and rituals of everyday life for ordinary Scots.

Changes to everyday life were often gradual, hard to discern and not unusually regional and even local in their impact. As the chapters of this volume will demonstrate, however, the historian of everyday life in the early modern period is aided considerably by the existence of a range of primary sources . . .

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