Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Travellers Through Time- A Gypsy History by Jeremy Harte -2022- 320 Pages

Travellers Through Time- A Gypsy History by Jeremy Harte -2022- 320 Pages - published by Reaktion Books.

Reaktion Books is a great source for books on history, biography and more.

I have been interested in Romi history for over 20 years. Travellers Through Time- A Gypsy History by Jeremy Harte is the only work that focuses on the history of the Gypsies in England. It is a very valuable addition to Romi literature.

Harte begins with an account of how he was motivated to write a history of the Romi in England. He details his research methods and personal contacts. The Romi first arrived on British shores about 1525. Initially men came as traders, then as they developed contacts with earlier residents.

"Romany Gypsies have been variously portrayed as exotic strangers or as crude, violent delinquents; this book is the first real history of the Romany people, from the inside. Jeremy Harte vividly portrays the hardships of the travelling life, the skills of woodland crafts, the colourful artistic traditions, the mysteries of a lost language and the flamboyant displays of weddings and funerals, which are all still present in this secretive culture.
Travellers through Time tells the dramatic story of life on the margin of society from Tudor times to today, offering vivid insights into the hidden world of England’s large Gypsy population. It will appeal to those who are curious about other cultures, as well as those who want to understand the reality behind the facade" - From the Publisher 

Harte tracks the movements of Romi people from India to the Persian Empire, Eastern Europe to France and then England through linguistics and older histories and government records.

Upon arrival in England many distrusted and feared the darker skinned differently dressed Romi. Harte's account details their involvement in English history up to the current day.

Harte gives us a vivid picture of the life styles of the Romi, their caravans, customs and clan structures. Romi initially did not marry outsiders. Many Romi men were well known boxers. Horses, betting and clan gatherings are very important. Harte shows us how some English communities were accepting of Travellers and others banned them. Their children did not for a long time attend school and few adults were literate. Harte tells us how Romi men fought for England in both world wars.

Harte takes us up to the 20th century. Many Romi are in settled communities, children learn English, there are now Romis in Parliament.

The traditional dress is worn more by women then men. Social roles are defined still by gender, though with a good bit of flexibility, age and wealth.

The Romi are still subjected to prejudices based on their skin tones and heritage. 

Jeremy Harte is curator of the Bourne Hall Museum at Epsom and Ewell. He is secretary of the Romany & Traveller Family History Society and created the Surrey Gypsy Archive. His previous books include Cloven Country: The Devil in the English Landscape, also published by Reaktion Books.
I highly reccomend this beautifully rendered addition to Romi and English History. Harte has included many photographs.

Mel Ulm


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