Learning About Daily Life

Learning About Daily Life

Cultures, customs, and routines have been as diverse in the past as they are today.  But for a long-past civilization, there is no longer a means of direct intercultural communication to learn about it.  Still, knowledge of the inner workings of a society and culture are vital to many types of researchers.  Greenwood Press’s database Daily Life Through History offers a unique exploration of these questions, shedding insight on what life was like in any given era or part of the globe; not just for the elites, but also for those of more modest estate – what was it like obtaining necessities, like bread; or to what degree people were free to move about and make life choices such as who or whether to marry.

Historical research is important for many disciplines – from historians and anthropologists to policy makers and social scientists to authors or filmmakers trying to recreate an authentic environment.  Daily Life Through History will accentuate research in any of these areas, with articles, supporting contemporaneous documentation like speeches and letters, in-depth timelines, maps, photos, audio and video recordings, and even political cartoons.

You can search by keyword, time period, part of the world, topic, or type of document.  For the advanced search, click ‘filter’ below the main search box.  You can also browse with the menu on the left – choose the time period you want and then the culture.  These comprehensive articles are broken down into a general overview and essays on family life, children, urban & rural life, work, language & literature, education, food & drink, housing, entertainment, and sports & games.  Quick links to supporting research and scholarship are included.

While it includes a wealth of information on European cultures throughout the ages, the database is far from Eurocentric, and is as powerful a tool for exploring what it was like living during the takeover and purges of the Soviet Union, to how Japanese artisans engaged with their craft in the isolated but culturally fruitful Edo period, to the rise of merchants in medieval Persia.

So, if you were interested in researching the effects on marriage customs and domestic spheres in India under the rule of the British Raj, you might select ‘Spheres of Influence, 1776-1914’, then choose ‘British India’, then select ‘Family Life’ in the menu on the left. 

Or, if you wanted to know what was it like working on a boat in China during the Ming dynasty, you might simply search for ‘medieval Chinese ships’ in the search box at the top and choose one of the results.  As before, the menu on the left includes helpful supporting material, both scholarship and primary sources (the Medieval Chinese Naval Technology entry, for example, is supported by a letter written by Marco Polo in the 1290s).

Daily Life Through History is one of the best resources for exploring how people live in between the interaction of powerful societal forces; giving insight on how and why civilizations behaved the way they did.  It is an inclusive resource equally interested in the experience of a mother or a child, a farmer or a soldier, a citizen or a stranger; and values their accomplishments and the spheres they moved as much as those of the elite.

Are you interested in learning more about Daily Life Through History?  Ask us! iueref@iue.edu

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