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An Evening of Food History in the IHR Library

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On Monday 15th May, the IHR Library will host an evening dedicated to food history to coincide with the opening of a new exhibition, ‘All the Right Ingredients: Food History Resources in the IHR,’ examining the history of food as revealed by the collections of the IHR Library.

Food has always held a significant role in history, shaping societies and influencing cultures and economies. However, it was only in the twentieth century that the study of food in history was incorporated into the discipline. Similarly, in relation to the IHR itself, food has always held a central role in the Institute with catering available in the Common Room, a formal Dining Club, and a dedicated Institute Tea Fund. This exhibition, and the talks that accompany its launch, therefore aim to highlight how food history can offer new insights into historical narratives.

Food item list with pricesMatthew Shaw, IHR Librarian, will introduce the exhibition and the library’s food history collections. Dr Kelly Spring, Convenor of the Food History Seminar at the IHR, will then open the exhibition with a talk examining the establishment of food studies into the historical discipline and the avenues that this has opened up to researchers. As Dr Spring has noted, ‘a macro-approach to the history of food can be implemented in order to reveal food’s effects on the grand narrative while a micro-level view as part of a micro-historical approach can be utilised to analyse the everyday lives of individuals, groups or communities in connection with food to furnish new insights into history.’ Dr Spring shall draw upon materials from the library’s collections and holdings, whilst also exploring new directions in the discipline of food history.

Following this, Siobhan Morris, Library Officer at the IHR, will talk on the importance of food in the history of the IHR. Siobhan will focus on the history of the IHR Dining Club, tracing its history from its establishment in 1938 to the decision taken to fold the Club in 1956. The talks will be followed by a reception and the opportunity to browse the exhibition and view additional materials from the library’s food history collections and the IHR archive.

The exhibition centres around four display cases, each addressing a different theme. These shall examine the social, cultural, political and economic histories of food through a range of materials in the IHR library collections – including recipes from across Mexico, France and India, soldiers’ diaries, chef’s memoirs, parliamentary acts and household accounts. In addition, a brief history of food in the Institute of Historical Research itself will also be displayed. This shall incorporate conference menus, personal testimonies and archival photographs and documents.

The exhibition will be on display on the third floor of the library and is open to all. Please ask at reception if you would like to visit the display. Further details of the launch event are available here.

Archival photograph of the IHR Common RoomContemporary photograph of the IHR Common Room

Further information on the IHR’s Food History Seminar can be found here: http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminar/food-history. You can also follow the seminar on Twitter: @IHR_FoodHist.

A more detailed history of the Institute’s Dining Club, as published in the IHR’s Past and Future series, can be accessed here.

A guide to the library’s collections on the history of food and drink is also available: http://www.history.ac.uk/library/collections/food-history 

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