29 November 2018 – Melissa Calaresu – ‘The Material World’ of a Grand Tour Household: Food in the ‘Italian Account Book’ of Thomas Jones (1780-1783)

Speaker: Melissa Calaresu (Cambridge)

Location: ROOM, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London

Time: 5.30pm, 29 November 2018

Abstract: The Welsh painter, Thomas Jones, recorded in minute detail the prices, origin, and types of food and services for each day of his family’s stay in Naples from their arrival from Rome in 1780 to their departure for England in 1783. His ‘Italian account book’ has not been studied before in any depth, except in relation to his activities as an artist. However, this ‘time-capsule’ of a family’s life provides an extraordinarily vivid entry into the material world of a Grand Tour household. The creation of a database will allow for the quantitative analysis of temporal and spatial patterns and relationships related to the production and consumption of food and household services in an eighteenth-century urban context. It will also allow for a closer qualitative analysis of family relationships, life cycles, and food preferences within Jones’ Anglo-Italian household. Further, the availability of foodstuffs in Naples and their preparation in the home will be considered by using parallel evidence from food-selling licenses in the municipal archives and contemporary recipe books. In this way, a rich and vivid picture of a household’s food choices will be linked to the economy of the streets and to wider networks of provisioning from outside of the city. Space, time, and the interconnectedness between the home and the street are central themes in this material culture analysis of food choices in Thomas Jones’ ‘Italian account book’.


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