Researching the history of daily greetings is challenging, because references are casual and scattered through many sources. Nonetheless, some broad trends are apparent. In eighteenth-century Britain, the old tradition of deep bowing and curtseying was slowly attenuating into a brisker touching of the cap or head (for men) and a quick bob (for women). Yet that transition was not the whole story. Simultaneously, a new form of urban greeting, in the form of the handshake, was emerging. The strengths and weaknesses of many different sources are here assessed, including novels, plays, letters, diaries, etiquette books, travelogues and legal depositions, as well as artwork. Strategies for analysis are identified, with a warning against generalizing from single references in single sources. Finally, the emergence of the handshake among the middle class in Britain's eighteenth-century towns gives a clear signal that socio-cultural change does not invariably start at the ‘top’ and ‘trickle down’.