Behind Closed Doors At Home in Georgian England – Amanda Vickery

This is an interesting (not to mention easy to read) book about home and what that meant to the Georgians.

The Georgian house is a byword for proportion and elegance, but what did it mean to its inhabitants? In this brilliant new work Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of English men and women, from the Oxfordshire mansion of the unhappy gentlewomen Anne Dormer in the 1680s to the dreary London lodgings of the bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in the 1830s. With her customary wit and verve, she evokes the interiors of a wide range of homes, introducing us to genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms, professional couples setting up home in rented houses, widowers frantic to keep their households afloat without mistress and servants with only a locking box to call their own.

The book is split into ten chapters; Thresholds and Boundaries at Home, Men Alone, Setting Up Home, His and Hers, Rooms at the Top, Wallpaper and Taste, The Trials of Domestic Dependence, A Nest of Comforts, What Women Made and A Sex in Things. Through exhaustive research (account books, court records, journals and letters, Vickery explores various ‘household’ issues. From the idea of privacy (which seems to be quite a modern concept – imagine having no space of your own beyond what you can fit in your locking box) to the rise of consumerism, to the different purchases made by men and women, the idea of ‘taste’ (what it meant and who had it) and also the division of power and labour in a household.

A few things that have stuck with me, it’s really difficult to determine what married women purchased because it was often done in their husband’s name, being a spinster of limited means was awful, society was patriarchal and although wise men let their wives run their households they didn’t have to and living with a tyrant in an era of no property rights was awful.

If you are interested in history, then this is definitely worth reading. It is accessible and entertaining and provides another glimpse into “Jane Austen’s World”.

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