18 November 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme- one of the bloodiest battles in human history, and one that has come to define our mental image of the First World War. Almost a million men were killed or wounded at the Somme, and one of them was the first employee of the London Museum, Maurice Edgar Read.
Coldstream Guards looking through Christina Broom’s postcards for sale, Chelsea Barracks, 1906
This summer, postcards have been a hot topic in my house. In June I installed Soldiers and Suffragettes; the exhibition exploring the life and work of photographer and postcard publisher Christina Broom, including over 100 vintage postcards.
Against the leading Edwardian women photographers, Broom’s entrée to postcard production stood out as a unique business venture. She turned to producing picture postcards just as they were becoming a popular cultural phenomenon. Although pre-stamped official government postcards had been available for sending messages in Britain since 1870, the picture postcard offered a product that was original, functional and commercial. Read the full post
Photography has played an important part in shaping public understanding of the world’s armed forces since the mid-nineteenth century. John McCosh (1805–85), a Scottish surgeon and amateur photographer serving with the East India Company’s Bengal Army, created what are currently believed to be the earliest photographs of British soldiers between 1843 and 1856, a period which included the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–9). Elsewhere, an unknown daguerreotypist photographed American troops during the American–Mexican war of 1846–8. Despite the obvious constraints of early technology, both photographers captured the combination of ceremony and soldiering that forms the essence of military life. Read the full post
Was there once opium in London sweets? Read the full post
I am aware that I have been woefully neglecting this blog, but I have rather a long list of excuses, some of them pretty good. My most recent distraction, if that’s the right word, was a summer school which we ran over three weeks in July. One of the sessions was about the experiences of women during the two World Wars and I showed the students examples of women’s uniforms including the one you can see below.