Essay, Pages 2 (274 words)
The study of the inn sign needs to be rescued from its current position as the preserve of amateurs; there is far more to its history than appealing stories. This is not to suggest that there are not extremely intriguing and sometimes baffling inspirations behind many signs, but the inn sign has far more historical significance than such interpretations allow.
This subject could well provide a new way of understanding certain elements of early modern society: it can show us how the inhabitants of towns and villages interacted and identified with their local drinking establishments, and how the signboard was used in their language and indeed their geography.
The sign was not just significant in terms of the public house to which it was attached, but was also crucial to the ways in which people understood and navigated their physical environment, allowing us a window into the mental universe of the early modern population. Similarly, the study of signs can provide an insight into how the populace interacted with wider political and social change.
Changes of sign reflected a changing world; by looking at the signs of drinking establishments we can gain some perception of the viewpoints of their patrons, the majority of which would normally be lost to history.
From a wider historical perspective we could see inn signs as a fresh angle on the role of advertising in the consumer revolution. After all, the purpose of a sign, above all its other functions, was to encourage people inside. Advertising is far from a modern phenomenon and inn signs are an important part of its early incarnations that should no longer be overlooked.