Echos of the Past

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy WorsleyLetters of Note compiled by Shaun UsherThe Manor by Mac Griswold

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two "dirty centuries"? Why did gas lighting cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did people fear fruit? All these questions will be answered in this juicy, smelly, and truly intimate history of home life. Lucy Worsley takes us through the bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen, covering the architectural history of each room, but concentrating on what people actually did in bed, in the bath, at the table, and at the stove. From sauce-stirring to breast-feeding this book will make you see your home with new eyes. (Publisher Summary)

Letters of Note compiled by Shaun Usher

Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight Eisenhower reflecting on Mamie and Ike's visit to Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile. (Library Journal Reviews)

The Manor by Mac Griswold

Cultural landscape historian Griswold examines the history of slavery, immigration, architecture, and family, all through the story of one house, the Sylvester Manor, built in 1733 and still standing today in Shelter Harbor, New York. Griswold's work is, in fact, a biography of the house, or at least the property on which the house now stands. In this meticulously researched contribution to US landscape history, Griswold's engaging prose and obvious attachment to the house and the generations of people, black and white, who crossed its threshold make this work an enchanting read. The author uses the treasure trove of documents saved by the family, garden and architectural plans, and artifacts found during an archaeological dig to reconstruct the social history of the manor's generations of inhabitants. Griswold's narrative style makes this a fascinating read for those interested in historical archaeology, landscape history, or in the social history of Northern slavery. (Choice Reviews)

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