Jan. 2022, “A tour de force”: Three further very positive book reviews

Three further detailed book reviews of Mary Hardy and her World came out in late 2021. Two were in academic journals which do not publish unsolicited reviews, and one in a specialist journal. Like all the other reviews, for both the Diary and World volumes, they are full of praise.

Summaries appear here as a news item. They are covered in greater depth as separate pages under Reviews on this website, where the full citations and links to each journal can be found.

“The world of Mary Hardy and her husband William was local, regional, national and . . . international”

Professor G.M. Ditchfield has reviewed all four volumes in the latest issue of the English Historical Review, for October 2021. Founded in 1886, the EHR is described on its website as “the oldest journal of historical scholarship in the English-speaking world”.

His four-page review opens with the significance of the wide-ranging content of all four volumes:

Their terms of reference are very wide and demonstrate that the world of Mary Hardy (1733–1809) and her husband William (1732–1811) was local, regional, national and in some respects international . . .

The Hardy family were of the ‘middling sort’, small-scale employers who expanded their business enterprises through a combination of hard work, frugality, effective management of time, and an ability to recognize and seize economic opportunities.

Grayson Ditchfield concludes that “historians of many specialities will find material of interest in these volumes . . . The quality of presentation is very high.” Like other reviewers he pays tribute to the compilation of a “splendidly comprehensive index” for each self-contained volume.

Mary Hardy and her World vol 2 cover

The cover of Volume 2 in this four-volume edition shows the farmer and brewer William Hardy jnr superimposed against the contemporary painting by Vincent

“A well-researched tour de force”

Susanna Wade Martins is a very well-known name in British agricultural and rural history. She writes in the Agricultural History Review for the second half of 2021:

Margaret Bird has produced a formidable, detailed, well-researched tour de force showing clearly what can be learnt about a little-studied branch of rural society, the upwardly mobile operators of successful rural businesses, through the pages of a unique journal.

The 6½-column review concentrates on the first two volumes, with their subtitles A working family and Barley, beer and the working year. Referring to the diaries of Mary Hardy around which the commentary volumes are centred, Dr Wade Martins observes:

There are many reasons why the diaries are so valuable. They are a detailed daily record covering 36 years. They are written, not by one of the gentry or aristocracy, but are a factual account written by a busy woman and active member of a working family, covering the domestic, agricultural, manufacturing, shipping, political and religious concerns with which she was fully involved.

The review highlights the value of Mary Hardy’s achievement in pointing up “the contrast between the working wife and genteel society”.

“Encyclopaedic, detailed, accurate and overall very entertaining”

The brewing historian Ken Smith, former editor of the Brewery History Society’s journal Brewery History, reviewed Volume 2 for the journal for Spring 2021.

He evaluates the book as “worthy of a place on any degree course in social, economic or industrial history and of great interest to us brewery historians as it sets a scene of pre-industrialisation”. He adds:

They [the volumes] are encyclopaedic, detailed, accurate and overall very entertaining . . . This is the story of nationwide radical change from an agrarian economy to an industrial one.

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Margaret Bird

Margaret Bird in 2016

The editor and author of the Mary Hardy volumes

You can read about the historian Margaret Bird on the link above

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