Oxford Brookes University
I am a historian of emotions and material culture and am captivated by the ways in which these shape how people think about themselves, their families, their homes, and their nations. I’ve worked on parents and children in Parenting in England, 1769-1830: Emotion, Identity and Generation (2012) and the ways in which people passed on objects and stories through generations to define their identities and forge links across time between living and dead family members. In some cases these stories were intangible and the objects only remembered; both evoked through sensory memories – recollections of parents and grandparents and the sights, sounds, and smells of childhood homes. My own family inheritances are very similar. There are exciting stories of a mysterious royal illegitimate birth on my paternal Italian side and a husband who deserted his family in Ireland to set up another in England on my maternal side, along with German, Huguenot, and Spanish ancestors. Truth be told, I am more interested in the purposes these stories have served for my family then their veracity, though perhaps it is time for me to take the launch into ancestry DNA testing to see if any of this has left its trace in my genes! Given that my ancestors have often been peripatetic and poor there are almost no objects to speak of and, somewhat ironically, given that I’m a historian of emotional objects, what I do possess stirs little in the way of strong feelings.
Pictured here is a garnet ring that I ‘think’ is from my Venetian family and a cocktail set from my Sunderland-based family. I don’t know the age of either, since my parents have both passed away, but I will ask my son to hang on to them to symbolise some aspects of who I think I am.