This 25-year project to publish a little-known diarist throws new light on 18th-century country life and work. Until now only brief extracts had appeared. Through the eyes of Mary Hardy (1733-1809), the wife of a Norfolk farmer, maltster and brewer, we observe the development of the family enterprise. The Hardys and their workforce perform all the stages of production, from ploughing the land and sowing the seed to delivering the beer to the public houses. The toll on the men is immense. In her diary totalling half a million words she ranges over a wide canvas. These include family matters such as the position of women and the nurturing of children, running a household and the high turnover of maidservants, supplying public houses and the innkeepers' many problems, and the civilian response to the threat of invasion. Each page has editorial sidenotes designed to guide the reader through the text. As well as explaining any unusual words they amplify her often laconic entries. Each well-illustrated volume in the set has a detailed index. The volumes are also available singly, the individual synopses giving the scope of Mary Hardy's coverage.
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The editor Margaret Bird has been an honorary research fellow in the History department of Royal Holloway, University of London since 2006. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2016. For both her first degree at St Anne's College, Oxford and her master's at Royal Holloway she specialised in aspects of English 18th-century history. She has been continuously engaged since 1988 in researching and editing this work, published in five volumes. She has now brought out not only the full text of this diary but of Mary Hardy's nephew Henry Raven, who as the brewery apprentice lived in the same household. Their unusual diaries together total more than 570,000 words. Four volumes of commentary and analysis will follow, entitled Mary Hardy and her World 1773-1809. In June 2015 Margaret Bird won the award of the British Association for Local History (BALH) for Research and Publication as the overall winner in the long-articles category for her article 'Supplying the beer', first published in The Glaven Historian in 2014. She drew on her Mary Hardy research as the principal source for this study of life on the road in late-18th-century Norfolk.Review:
Five reviews. 1: "One of the most consistent, enduring and revealing primary sources of its period" (review by Professor G.M. Ditchfield, in the English Historical Review, February 2015, pp. 219-21). He has warm praise for the value of the source, Mary Hardy being "that comparative rarity, a female diarist deeply involved in the world of work, both as toiler and as employer". He also draws attention to the professionalism and "painstaking thoroughness of the editing" and to the index to each volume of the diary: "impeccably comprehensive and lucidly arranged". Given the very large number of illustrations and "the handsome appearance" of this four-volume edition he considers the books "a real bargain". 2: "A wonderful view of an upwardly mobile family" (review by Professor Richard G. Wilson, in the Journal of the Parson Woodforde Society, Winter 2013, pp. 21-6). He describes the volumes as "a notable addition to the long roll-call of English diaries ... They provide a revealing insight into the powerful forces at work in accelerating economic and social change ... She [Mary Hardy] records a world of work and of advancement." 3: "Everything in the books [the Diary volumes] describes in great detail the social, economic and financial environment" of the 18th century (Ken Smith, in the journal Brewery History, 25 Nov. 2013). He refers to the editor Margaret Bird's "painstaking accuracy", a diary text that is "richly annotated and explained", and indexes "of great depth". (Brewery History, no. 154, pp. 89-90). 4: "Incredibly rich material" (by the former County Archivist for Surrey, 17 Aug. 2013). "Everything about the presentation of this incredibly rich material has been considered with the reader in mind ... If Margaret Bird had 'just' transcribed the whole of Mary Hardy's output, half a million words covering nearly 36 years, ... it would have been a work of an outstanding scale. However, over the last 25 years she has undertaken in-depth research on every topic and person that the entries encompass ... The detailed footnotes, which are rather unusually but very conveniently placed down the side of the page, illuminate what could be otherwise fairly obscure entries ... The 460-page index is especially user-friendly." (by Maggie Vaughan-Lewis, in the Journal of the Aylsham Local History Society, Aug. 2013, pp. 294-6). 5: "Remarkable feat of scholarly dedication" (Eastern Daily Press, 8 June 2013). "Over the years I've read - and reviewed - many local books. But this project really is in a class of its own ... possibly the greatest single piece of scholarship on a Norfolk topic since the Rev Francis Blomefield embarked on his monumental survey of the county in the 18th century ... And the author has not finished yet: four volumes of commentary and analysis will follow." (by Trevor Heaton, Books editor)
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