A Brief History of Trench Art
From the dawn of civilisation to today...
Clearly conflicts have been part of the fabric of human history since civilisation began.
Equally, the innate human desire to covet objects has also always been there.
The combination of these means it is likely that ‘trench art’ souvenirs have existed for thousands of years but much has either vanished or the link with conflict has been lost and the objects are now simply classified as ‘local craftsmanship of the period’.
I do wonder how many ‘guaranteed’ sections of the arrow that killed King Harold in 1066 were sold to souvenir collectors in the late 11th century.
The dawn of the recognised age of trench art was with the prisoners of war of the Napoleonic Wars, 1796-1815.
With thousands of French and Dutch prisoners held around the country, incarcerated for years and poorly fed, a trade in objects manufactured from wood, straw and particularly bone sprang up to allow prisoners to subsidise their meagre rations.
The impressively detailed scale models of warships are their most enduring legacy.
Napoleonic model ship made from bone (not mine!!) Straw work box (Jane Kimball collection)