Historians have often assumed that the lives of the poor and illiterate can never be known because they have left little written record of their existence. The voices of the uneducated are there, however, and their written traces can be deciphered, if we take the trouble to look for them. This book will establish some of the main themes and frontiers of a new field of historical study: that of 'ordinary writings', (or ecritures ordinaries) - the improvised and often ephemeral writings of the poor, the young and the hitherto silent people of history. This collection of new studies from France, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Iceland, Greece, Italy and Britain has a coherent focus on the transition to writing literacy in 19th and 20th century Europe. The overall theme is the access of ordinary people to writing, examined in the concrete forms which writing took and the specific functions which it performed. The uses of writing, and the cultural practices in which they were embedded, are explained in their context of social and political relations, gender relations and relations between the literate and the illiterate.