The Quennells and the 'History of Everyday Life' in England, c. 1918-69

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This article argues that a new popular social history, the ‘history of everyday life’, emerged in England after the First World War. Couched in the rhetoric of ‘democratization’, this version of social history was an afterlife of the Arts and Crafts movement and is the prehistory of post-1945 mass history teaching and popular heritage tourism techniques. However, it occupies an ambiguous historiographical position between the decline of Victorian romantic and Whiggish histories, and the rise of ‘history from below’ in the 1960s. Therefore, the ‘history of everyday life’ has hitherto been poorly conceptualized. This article unpacks this new social history using the life and work of Charles Henry Bourne Quennell (1872–1935) and his wife Marjorie Quennell (1883–1972). The Quennells were the authors and illustrators of a four-volume series of interwar bestsellers called A History of Everyday Things in England, which remained in print until the late 1960s. Through an examination of the intellectual influences, networks of socialization, and practical activities surrounding these books and their authors, a significant but under-examined window into the history of British social history is revealed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-134
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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