4 November 2022
In March this year we held a conference at the University of Reading to discuss the year 1922. The idea was to take a holistic approach to the year, looking at its history, literature and culture, and the papers that we received exceeded our expectations, discussing everything from cookery to concepts of blindness. However, it might be argued that to attempt to delineate a single year in all its fullness and contradiction is neither advisable nor possible. Billie Melman, in discussing the 1920s, for example, has written that ‘a decade […] is not a fact. It is an arbitrary measurement of time, retrospectively imposed upon […] the past by the tidy-minded student of history.’ How much more can this be said about a single year which will encompass all manner of ideas, forms and actions, some derived from the distant past, many recently born and a few that will appear on just a single occasion and have no subsequent relevance. Even if this places some formidable obstacles in the way of characterising just twelve short months, it does not mean that something of relevance cannot be surmised. It is important, though, to avoid the tidy mindedness of which Melman speaks and not place more value upon the banner headlines than the small print.