Time for some new retro
For some time now, we've had good success drawing on the decades from the 1950s through the 1990s for our retro. Some bolder types have even made some use of the 1890s and 1920s--periods of wealth and excess--to inspire fashion, architecture, lifestyles, and the arts. The new economic realities, though, I think will convince us to draw on some new periods for our retro: the 1930s and 1940s.
In the United States, the 1930s are generally remembered as "the Great Depression," and not much else. In fact, it was a much more complex and subtle decade than that. Even the economics is more complex than that--there were actually two recessions in the 1930s, with a period of growth (albeit weak growth) from 1933 to 1937 in the middle.
Similarly, the 1940s are generally remembered as "the war years," even though the US didn't enter the war until 1941 and the war ended in 1945. Of course, the war had already been going on for years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and its aftermath held sway over at least the second half of the decade.
Still, I think there's a lot of retro available to be mined from those decades. To start with, there's frugality. There's also a curious blend of independence and a willingness to pull together and work for a common purpose.
So, any time in the next few years when you feel like seeking out some inspiration from the way things were done in the past, take a look at the 1930s and 1940s. There's lots of good stuff there.
That's not to say that there isn't great retro to be found in even earlier decades. The 1910s (a decade with three recessions and a war) offer plenty of art, literature, and economics to draw from. And, of course, there are useful things from decades even before that, such as Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management from 1861 (also available as a free e-text from Project Gutenberg). Besides considerable advice on hiring servants, it has numerous recipes--complete with cost estimates circa 1860--and extends as far as discussing the raising of sheep and chickens.
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