Hear from John Styles about the eighteenth-century fabric tokens which tell the moving stories of mothers and the babies they gave up to the Foundling Hospital
Hear from John Styles about the eighteenth-century fabric tokens which tell the moving stories of mothers and the babies they gave up to the Foundling Hospital.
When mothers left babies at London’s Foundling Hospital in the mid-eighteenth century, the Hospital often retained a small token as a means of identification, usually a piece of fabric. Thousands of these swatches of fabric survive in the Foundling Hospital archive, forming Britain’s largest collection of everyday textiles from the eighteenth century. They include the whole range of fabrics worn by ordinary women, along with ribbons, embroidery and even some baby clothes. Poignant and sometimes beautiful, each scrap of material reflects the lives of an infant child and its absent parent. The enthralling stories the fabrics tell about textiles, fashion, women’s skills, infant clothing and maternal emotion are the subject of this lecture.
John Styles is Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Hertfordshire and Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He specializes in the history of early-modern Britain and its colonies, especially the study of material life, manufacturing and design. His most recent books are The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England and Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770. He is currently writing a book about fashion, textiles and the origins of Industrial Revolution.
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