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Markets, Fairs, and the Echoes of Everyday Voices

Here at the University of Liverpool we’ve been busy researching our Markets and Fairs case study. Our focus falls on the everyday social and economic activities and interactions between Romani and non Romani people at horse fairs in the UK and in Germany.

As our timeline is the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries traces of everyday lives, which were often lived on the periphery, are less easy to find. When representation of marginalized lives does occur it is often external, prejudiced, or through a blinkered glimpse. Of course, everyday life is often punctuated by the extraordinary, and so we find our horse traders and their families caught up in unexpected events and upheavals - and this is often the only way we find echoes of their stories in official archives, through police reports, war records, newspaper stories or other external representations. We are also searching for general representations and histories of the horse fairs themselves, and their integral role in the lives and economies of the time. Here we find not only horse trade, but also a multitude of entertainment activities.

Following archival research on our English fairs case study at the Kendal Archives, private family collections, the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Archives at the University of Leeds and the Gypsy Lore Society Archives here at the University of Liverpool, I spent several weeks last month researching the German angle. I visited the town and the regional archives in Dessau and Magdeburg, and the town archives in Zerbst, one of the sites of large horse fairs. Next week I’m off to the National Archives, looking for records relating to both our German and UK cases. Slowly we are piecing together actions, interactions and journeys near and far – and we are looking forward to updating you on the lives, both ordinary and extraordinary, that we find.

Tamara West


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