Enfilade

New Book | Mudlark’d: Hidden Histories from the River Thames

Posted in books by Editor on March 24, 2023

Mudlarking depends upon tides, and the Thames is particularly affected by robust tidal churning (as the Seine is not, as noted by Jason Goodwin in a 2019 Country Life essay). From Princeton UP:

Malcolm Russell, Mudlark’d: Hidden Histories from the River Thames (2022), 224 pages, ISBN: ‎978-0691235783, $35.

Book coverA captivating history of London as told through objects recovered from the muddy banks of the Thames and the lives of the people who owned them.

Mudlark’d combines insights from two hundred rare objects discovered on the foreshore of the River Thames with a wealth of breathtaking illustrations to uncover the hidden histories of ordinary people from prehistory to today. Malcolm Russell tells the stories behind each find, revealing the habits, customs, and artistry of the people who created and used it.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, London was the busiest port in the world, exchanging goods and ideas with people from every continent. The shores of the Thames have long been densely packed with taverns, brothels, and markets, and the river’s muddy banks are a repository of intriguing and precious objects that evoke long-forgotten ways of life. With Russell as your guide, a bottleneck of a jug is shown to be a talisman to counter the ill effects of witchcraft. Glass beads expose the brutal realities of the transatlantic slave trade. Clay tobacco pipes uncover the lives of Victorian magicians. A scrap of Tudor cloth illuminates the experiences of Dutch and French religious refugees. These are just some of the stories told in Mudlark’d, which also contains a primer, giving advice on how to mudlark on tidal rivers around the world and outlining the tools and equipment you will need.

Malcolm Russell has contributed to publications such as Treasure Hunting, The Searcher, and Beachcombing. A lifelong mudlark, he studied history at the University of Sheffield, where he was recently an honorary research fellow in the Department of History. His remarkable finds were featured in the Thames Festival exhibition Foragers of the Foreshore.

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