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A History of Everyday Things in England: Illustrators of mid-twentieth-century social history books

McCannon, DR (2017) A History of Everyday Things in England: Illustrators of mid-twentieth-century social history books. Journal of Illustration, 4 (1). ISSN 2052-0204 (In Press)

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Abstract

The illustrated books considered in this article present histories of every day life and align with the genre of history writing that had existed at least since the nineteenth century, of women documenting the domestic sphere, challenging the hegemonic and dominant narratives of history and presenting ‘Englishness’ instead within the practices and objects of the everyday. The use of illustrations to evoke empathy, describe the detail of ordinary lives and offer graphic interpretations of data shows an engagement with the pedagogical possibilities of visual literacy in schoolbooks, allied to developments in the state school system at the time. The books demonstrate a variety of approaches towards the function of illustration in textbooks for children. These approaches include presenting ‘picturesque’ narratives, promoting imaginative empathy through the use of contempareneous visual source material, and encouraging critical thinking through pattern recognition in the assessment of information graphics. The article considers the visual mode in each book and maps its production onto social, political and ideological contexts of mid-twentieth-century England, offering feminist perspectives on the notion of history writing, scholarship and pedagogy.

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