Dining in the Great Houses (Volume 41)
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Historical rabbit holes, for those who are inclined.
These slender booklets from Historical Management Associates are the work of an organization dedicated to historical re-enactment in the UK. They are written with a stickler’s attention to historical precision and a conviction that nothing is too arcane to investigate. Some of the books are simple transcriptions of period manuscripts; others represent significant original research, as in Cattle Farming and Grazing Management, which is 52 pages long but cites 36 sources, many of them published in the 17th century.
The Food and Cookery in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England series presents a systematic survey of existing records of ingredients and equipment employed in the period. In addition to concise explanations of how such items might have been used and how they might have been significantly different from what is implied by current terminology, they include citations from various period and later records to demonstrate the geographic and class distribution of everything from hops to decorative tankards.
From the introduction: “The Great Houses were generally those of the knights and nobility, the bishops and greatest merchants probably less than 2000 households or 0.2% of households in England…This tiny minority of households account for the vast majority of surviving written domestic records due to the complex literate management systems required to run such major establishments and to audit expenditure to minimise fraud.”
Staplebound pamphlet. 52 pages. Sketches and black-and-white photographs.