Social history with a sly grin

Issue 

The Worst Jobs in History

Presented by Tony Robinson

Sunday, ABC 7.30pm

"History isn't just made by kings and queens but by lots of people getting their hands dirty."

So says Tony Robinson, introducing the series The Worst Jobs in History. This entertaining program travels through (largely British) history to discover the most horrible occupations of all time.

The jobs covered in this program vary from a professional hermit who was paid to sit in a cave for seven years to add sophistication to Regency-period country houses, to a "salt-peta man", who had to collect the contents of toilets to make gun-powder.

The most entertaining part of the series is watching Robinson recreate these grisly tasks. In one memorable scene as a "fuller" he washes a sheepskin in stale urine in order to make linen.

Robinson is at his most poignant when describing the worst jobs done by children in industrial England. For instance the mill scavenger, forced to dodge moving power looms while collecting flammable fibres from the floor of cotton mills.

As yet, the series has not ventured into the 20th century, home of such occupations as uranium miner and advertising consultant. But it has gone a long way to bring to light the super-exploitation of young people and the poor on which Britain's industrial might was built.

As Robinson points out, history is an active process. "Without the tanner, and the salt peta man, none of this would have happened. We owe these people a lot."

UPCOMING EVENT

IN CONVERSATION WITH BRUCE PASCOE: The Climate Emergency & Indigenous Land Practice

SATURDAY 5 DECEMBER ♦ 4PM ACT, NSW, TAS & VIC ♦ 3:30PM SA ♦ 3PM Qld ♦ 2:30PM NT ♦ 1PM WA

Zoom panel featuring Bunurong man Bruce Pascoe, award-winning Australian writer and editor, author of Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?

Also featuring agroecologist Alan Broughton, filmmaker & Rural Fire Service volunteer Robynne Murphy and City of Moreland councillor Sue Bolton.

For more information call (02) 8070 9341 or 0403 517 266. Hosted by Green Left.