“Can be used across many disciplines”

“These are a set of reference books that can be used by scholars and researchers across many disciplines and at all levels.”

So writes Ken Smith in his book review of the four-volume set The Diary of Mary Hardy in Brewery History no. 154 (Autumn 2013), pages 89–90.

A story never documented in first-hand detail—until now

“From the perspective of a brewery historian, the volumes cover the expansion of the brewery from a tiny enterprise through the acquisition of property and brewing premises. A story repeated across the country but never documented in first-hand detail. There are links to other brewers whose names I recognise and to people long forgotten.”

Ken Smith is a former editor of Brewery History, the journal of the Brewery History Society. He considers the Mary Hardy volumes to be valuable reference works for “those researching brewers or publicans, but also for those wanting to taste the life of a country brewer, his family, trade and customers”.

18th-century life described in detail

“Everything in the books describes in great detail the social, economic and financial environment common in the 18th century . . .

We do not have to tax our imaginations too much. What the author [Margaret Bird] has done with painstaking accuracy is to provide us with copious notes, presented as side bars that run parallel to the text.”

The variety of the diarist’s coverage

Ken Smith is struck by the variety of the diary entries:

“Comments on simple activities, the minutiae of everyday existence, lie next to statements on the world outside Norfolk. The American and French Revolutions, presented as throwaway lines, are cheek by jowl with the more pressing needs of making a living in pre-industrial England.”

“. . . For example, on 3 April 1779 Mary’s family are recorded as having seen ‘5 felons hangd at Norwich’.”

Ken Smith appreciates the value of Mary Hardy’s coverage in areas which are often neglected, such as distribution by water and on land.

“The diaries record wherry traffic and beer distribution statistics, showing a trading world struggling with distribution before the revolution of the railways . . .

These are books where you would have a location, event, topic or person in mind, and use the text to explore more about that item. You will certainly learn more about that research topic and with Mary’s narrative, and Margaret’s guiding hand, the exploration will be extremely rewarding.”

“This is not a book with just words”

Like other reviewers, he is struck by the quality of the editing and presentation of the original text.

“Whilst the pages overflow with notes, references and expansions of the original text, it is generously peppered with illustrations, photos, paintings, newspaper ads and drawings. For those not familiar with Mary’s locale, Margaret includes maps of the immediate area.”

These illustrations, “both historical and modern, bring to life Mary’s world”.

Indexes of great depth

Ken Smith pays tribute to the indexing:

“I was truly astonished that each volume has its own separate index of great depth. This allows the reader, and specifically the researcher, to get right to the quotations and the statement.”