Off and on, I'm one of those people who does a bit of family history. One thing that struck me quite early on was just how many of my ancestors seem to have been shoemakers, back in the early nineteenth century (devotees of Cockney rhyming slang won't be surprised at the thought of a lot of cobblers in family history). I suppose, come to think of it, that people went to their local shoemaker until quite late in the nineteenth century before industrialisation took over. Globalisation came along even more recently.
There's a Clark's factory outlet near where I work: Clark's, good old Quaker family, industrialists with a social conscience, all that sort of thing. Plus, they've always done broad fittings. So I nipped over in my lunch hour and found some very comfortable shoes: one pair was made in Thailand, the other in Vietnam. A bit of googling tells me how things have changed. It's all in the logic of global capitalism, of course, and if it's helping Thais and Vietnamese to share a bit of our prosperity, all well and good.
But how fast things have changed: less than two hundred years since my ancestors couldn't even have imagined shoes being made the way they are now - and shipped from places they wouldn't have heard of.
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