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A look at life in Georgian England

Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England - Amanda Vickery

An Englishman's home, as the saying goes, may be his castle, but three hundred years ago it was becoming so much more. In the 18th century, the English home served as a place in which its inhabitants sought to define themselves through the use of décor. As more people socialized in their homes, their living spaces became venues in which their identity could be displayed for others to see for themselves. The emergence and development of this trend is the subject of Amanda Vickery's book, which analyzes the lives of the men and women of Georgian England by examining the homes in which they lived.

 

In studying Georgian homes, Vickery uses a number of different perspectives. Among her goals is the reintroduction of men into the picture, which she does most notably in her chapter on the homes of bachelors. Yet as she demonstrates, the furnishing and decoration of homes was predominantly a female concern, albeit one often handled in consultation with the men of the household. Such decisions were often mundane, and focused more on simple maintenance rather than grand refurbishment, but all of them reflected the interests of the participants and were shaped by the concept of "taste" that emerged during this period, which charted a path that increasing numbers were compelled to take.

 

Detailed, insightful, and well-written, Vickery's book offers a fascinating examination of life in Georgian England. Because of the limitations of her sources, it is by necessity an examination focused primarily on the upper classes, yet she succeeds in taking account books, ledgers, and other mundane sources to reconstruct their lives, showing the growing importance of home life and the weight contemporaries placed on defining their domestic environment. Her success in unearthing these details and bringing the Georgian world back to life makes this book a necessary read for anyone interested in 18th century England, one that will likely serve as an indispensable study of the subject for decades to come.