I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is exactly the kind of thing I would love to take Eleanor off to London to do. I mean, we'd obviously see many other sights too, but imagine it! Mudlarking! You have to get a special permit and everything, but I can not imagine a better way to spend an afternoon in one of my favorite countries, than searching for lost bits of history. Of course, the chances of finding something rare or centuries-old is slim, but I also think those ordinary bits are just as important - an item dropped by accident, forever lost to the Thames, the owner thinks. Yet the objects discovered sometimes end up memorializing those every-day individuals who crossed the Thames time and again just going about their daily lives.
Obviously I really liked he book.
My only complaint is no fault of the publisher. I prefer my plain old regular Kindle to the Kindle Fire, so the images were all in black and white. Even when viewed this way, they were gorgeous and so much detail was preserved, thanks to the everlasting secret-keeping of the Thames and her mud. I can only imagine how stunning the objects would be in color - or in real life, even better. This is definitely a book to own in physical form, if this subject interests you. Many will probably call it a coffee table book, but this one really is meant to be read. I also found myself Googling more images as I read, and found some neat treasures.
Until I read this book, I did not know 'mudlarking' was a thing, or that it even had this delightful name. I mean, it probably occurred to me at some point in the beginning of my love affair with the UK that the Thames would hold untold windows to the past, and you could easily go down and poke around to see what there is to be found. But aside from that, it is not something I gave much more thought to until this book popped up on a friend's reading shelf over on Goodreads.
The authors are mudlarkers themselves and the book opens by talking about who mudlarkers are and what they do. Each section following this was broken up by the kinds of items found, into categories. First the authors provide context for the items in brief histories of the periods discussed, which is helpful. I found that this way worked quite well, instead of dividing it up by the time periods to which the pieces belonged. The author provides information at the end of the text about how to get involved in mudlarking, as well as associated places to see around London, which I appreciated.
I was also interested to learn that a Thames Museum will be opening in the future. Currently objects found are often displayed in the Museum of London. It is also required that mudlarks must report finds to the authorities on any object three hundred years or older. It is comforting to see some regulation in this; just imagine what treasures might have disappeared into private collections were permits and such not required. Of course, we will never know all that was found by those early mudlarks - those Victorians who still seem to be a step ahead even though they're two hundred years behind us now.
There are so many treasures detailed in this book, I hardly know where to begin. We are treated to an assortment of beautiful objects, some for special occasions and some for daily use. Coins and market tokens are heavily represented here and I loved looking at the various designs - especially the Celtic coins and Hadiran's as well.. Also on display are various children's toys depicting knights, glass beads, clothing pins, clay pipes, and those specially designed Victorian-era hexagonal glass bottles that once contained poisons of many kinds.
The heartbreaking discovery included here was that of the skeleton of a twelve year old girl. Though the details of her short life are lost to history, experts determined that she had suffered from rickets, stunted growth especially evident between the ages of one and two. This poor child suffered from hunger and I want so badly to know more about her. I looked up further information about this discovery and what the area would have looked like when she died. I felt much better in knowing that she was not simply tossed into the river, and that she had been buried there, based on the findings of the research team. You can read more here and here.
I also learned of the floating prisons that once dotted the Thames, and how terrible the conditions were. That information made the discovery of an 18th century ball and chain all the more interesting. The lock was still closed, so what does it mean? Was it tossed carelessly into the river one day when no longer needed? Or did a prisoner attempt an escape, only to drown due to the weight? We will never know.
Highly fascinating and absolutely recommended.
What a fascinating activity! I adored our visit to London a couple years ago. It is just so crazy to think about the sheer scope of history there.ReplyDelete
I remember chatting to an American couple on the jetfoil to Capri years ago. We'd both just come from Rome and the husband was apparently depressed at just how OLD everything was. [I couldn't help but laugh at this reaction] The example the wife used was an Egyptian obelisk at one of Rome's main gates. The Romans brought it their capital after campaigning in Egypt 2.5 thousand years ago. When they removed it the object was *already* 3 thousand years old. That's history! [lol]Delete
extra zero? they do sneak in, haha..Delete
That's two point five rather than twenty five. The point doesn't show up much. I should have written 2 1/2 but it looks funny when you type it that way.Delete
Ethan - right?! Just imagine what that river has seen - every settlement ever built on that site. London would not exist without the Thames and there is probably so much more buried in the mud that we will never find.Delete
CK - What a goober! Everything looked old, pfft. What was he expecting?? Honestly, being an American is SO embarrassing sometimes!Delete
I think its because the US doesn't really *have* any History on the European or Asian or Chinese Or Indian or.... [grin] scale. 'Old' or 'Historic' buildings in the US would be considered pretty modern here. I remember Micky Dolenz from the Monkees saying that one reason he liked England so much was that we had gas stations older than his country.... which is kinda true.... sort of... as a lot of original coaching stations were later converted to 'gas/petrol' stations.Delete
EXACTLY. The long history we do have here is not ours and we sure did our best to destroy what history was left here by Native American populations. There's so much I want to know about these lost civilizations such as the Clovis People, Cahokia, or the people who lived at Mesa Verde.Delete
I also love the UK for much of the same reasons as Micky - I do love history dearly.
we saw a program on excavating an Anglo-Saxon village on the Thames edge once; pretty interesting... and of course there's Rumpole's favorite vintage: eau de Thames embankment be sure and wash your hands after you do this, haha...ReplyDelete
Ew is right, lol. There are some pretty disgusting things in the Thames - both historical and modern. I think the Anglo-Saxons might be my fave period, especially Alfred and Athelstan. I'd love to explore that excavation!Delete
Fascinating seems to be the key word here. Mudlarking sounds like archeology for the common person!ReplyDelete
It really is! I am excited to give it a try, once we are allowed to go places again and we've got the money saved to do so. What a fantastic adventure for Eleanor it would be!Delete
This sounds very intriguing to be sure! Also, that cover just speaks to me lolReplyDelete
That is what first hooked me too! The cover is eye-catching.Delete
I once got lost down a rabbit hole of mudlarking videos on YouTube. People find some really interesting stuff in that river!ReplyDelete
Aj @ Read All The Things!
I have a feeling I would fall down that same rabbit hole if I looked now. I'll wait until the weekend when I don't have to be up early for work!Delete
I’ve heard about this, it sounds fascinating! I’d imagine the Thames hides some amazing and gruesome secrets.ReplyDelete
Right?! Think about how much history is buried even more deeply in that mud. The Thames has witnessed every settlement on that site, there's so much we may never find.Delete
That sounds really riveting and unputdownable. I'm adding it to my TBR list.ReplyDelete
Oh good, I think you'll like it! If you are on NetGalley you can request it. Otherwise it will be published in April. It would be fine to view on a Kindle Fire or iPad, anything where you can have color photos. If you don't have those options, definitely get a physical copy.Delete
I didn't know 'mudlarking' was a thing either! It sounds like a lot of fun though. I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a kid and used to dig up my Nan's garden looking for treasure. The house was built where there used to be Victorian terraced houses and we used to find bits of pottery and old apothecary bottles. I'll have to give this book a go.ReplyDelete
Too funny! I wanted to be a paleontologist so we would bury rocks that could pass for fossils in the sandbox, and then my little self scooted right into the kitchen to grab all kinds of utensils for us to go fossil hunting - grill brushes, bbq brushes, all kinds of kitchen cutlery. You name it, we used it, lolDelete
i wanted to major in paleo also but i had to settle for a bachelor's in geology: $ and a family to support... it's fascinating and addictive, tho...Delete
Never too late to go back to school...You can still be a paleontologist!Delete
I would love to do this! It does sound amazing. Imagine the treasures... or like you said, even the ordinary things that still mattered to someone.ReplyDelete
Right?! I am absolutely sure that when I finally get to take Eleanor to the UK, we will spend a weekend mudlarking.Delete
I've never heard of mudlarking, but it makes me think of the stories that Thames could tell if a river could speak!ReplyDelete
Right?! I think we should all go mudlarking and see what we can find!Delete