Category Archives: Blog Posts

“She is Full of Electricity”: Fear and electrification

By Ceri Houlbrook, University of Hertfordshire

People fear what they don’t understand. But what you don’t understand is often determined by the period you live in, and so for every generation this may well be something different.

Accessing the fears and anxieties of people living in the past is no easy feat. There are very few historical sources that can give us direct insight into the types of things that worried, daunted, and frightened people. Hospital records are one of those few. And so, to gain some understanding of what people feared a century ago, I delved into the case-books of Lancaster Moor Hospital (pictured above), currently held in the Lancashire Archives.

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The Rays: A Fairy Story

By Ceri Houlbrook, University of Hertfordshire

‘ELECTRICITY is a friend and helper in the home, but sometimes it seems terribly mysterious, because it is so silent and invisible.

This little reader is meant to lead children to think of Electricity with interest and confidence as a friend who is always ready to help, and who need not be feared, if treated with respect.

At the same time, the fairy tale affords a glimpse into some of the wonderful changes through which electrical energy passes before it enters the Home’ (1930: 2)

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ESB Advertising: The Early Years

By Deirdre McParland, ESB Archives

From the very beginning of the Shannon Scheme, quality advertising was used to inform, encourage and entertain the public on the benefits of electricity. Electricity was a new technology and while available in towns and cities from local suppliers since the turn of the century, its use was limited. Through the medium of advertising, ESB sought to convince the population of Ireland that electricity was not only perfectly safe but also easy to use and would transform the lives of Irish people for ever.

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Love, Obey and Carry Water: Electricity in the Irish Countryside

In our last blog post, Ciara Meehan looked at how Dublin housewives converted to electricity in the 1960s. In this latest post, Lorna Sixsmith explores the experience of the rural dweller.

Guest Post from author Lorna Sixsmith.

While townspeople were buying electric cookers, refrigerators and dishwashers for their kitchens, using electric irons for their clothes and electric tongs to curl their hair in the 1950s and 1960s, were country people able to avail of the same modern conveniences?

The contrast between town and country facilities was highlighted in many publications:

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Converting to Electricity: Irish Housewives in the 1960s

By Ciara Meehan, University of Hertfordshire

Electric rings, electric kettles and electric coffee pots were in much demand in April 1961 as the Evening Herald reported that Dublin housewives were preparing for a ‘kitchen emergency’. Although domestic consumption of electricity had increased steadily from the 1950s, many homes still relied on gas appliances. So when strike notice was served on the Dublin Gas Company, Dublin housewives began to prepare themselves for temporary disruption to the pattern of their daily life.

Front page of the Evening Herald, Saturday, 15 April 1961

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Electricity and the Extinction of Fairies?

By Ceri Houlbrook, University of Hertfordshire

There can be little doubt that the advent of electricity brought many benefits. With the introduction of the lightbulb, the telegraph, the electric cooker, people’s domestic lives became easier, more sanitary, and arguably less isolated. Electricity sparked an age of unprecedented technological and social advancements, and humanity thrives.

But electricity hasn’t brought benefits for everyone. We know from evolutionary biology that changes in the environment can cause one species to flourish whilst endangering another, and this blog post focuses on one specific species that hasn’t fared so well since the advent of electricity: fairies. Read more

Electrical Magic and the Science of the Supernatural

By Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire

Over the last two millennia, the idea of a world governed by invisible forces has shaped the way people in western cultures have understood the relationship between us, the natural world, and the heavens. It has also profoundly shaped our interactions with each other as humans. Up until the eighteenth century, the concept of Neoplatonism, which had its origins in antiquity, was central to scientific and religious understanding. It explained how all matter was interconnected through myriad spirits. So witches, for example, were able to cause harm at a distance using spells, looks, and muttered curses, through this invisible spiritual soup.

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