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Household Gods: The British and their Possessions
At what point did the British develop their mania for interiors, wallpaper, furniture, and decoration? Why have the middle classes developed so passionate an attachment to the contents of their homes? This absorbing book offers surprising answers to these questions, uncovering the roots of today’s consumer society and investigating the forces that shape consumer desires. R ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published December 15th 2006 by Yale University Press
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I read this for my Victorian England class and though I had some reservations about it was actually really fascinating. Deborah Cohen really blended the social changes of Victorian England (as well as Edwardian, post WWI and then WWII) with the changes in their material possessions and the decoration of houses. I particularly liked the emphasis on the Women's Suffrage moment and was really shocked to learn how many suffragettes (including the Pankhursts!) were involved either as owners of Furnit ...more
This book is utterly fascinating and I really enjoyed it. I would probably have got into it a lot more quickly had it not stunk of cigarette smoke; whoever took it out of the library last was clearly a chainsmoker. The topic, of how British social views on home furnishing have evolved during Victorian times and subsequently, proved to be really compelling. There have been a series of very significant shifts, which of course tie into broader economic, class, and geopolitical changes. To summarise ...more
Deborah Cohen’s book is a fascinating study on a number of levels. From its starting point as a history of the domestic interior of middle class homes from the Victorian era into the early twentieth century, it serves as a lens for examining the history of the period on a number of different levels. What emerges is an entertaining account of the democratization of taste that accompanied the growth of consumerism in the nineteenth century, one that reflected and presaged broader changes taking pl ...more
Alert the media: I finally finished this book! 'Very well researched and thorough, but also a bit plodding and dry (and I like plodding and dry). My favorite aspect of the book was the sweeping expanse of time that it covered from the Victorian era to the end of WWII (and beyond in the final chapter). This allows the reader to really enjoy the ebb and tide of trends and how possessions are ascribed meanings. If you enjoy the latter, and the time period, or if you're an Anglophile in general, you ...more
Written with verve and breezily informative, this book is a compelling interpretation of the British antiquing impulse, as it was was born and evolved over the 19th and 20th centuries. And it's far more engaging than it sounds: history in a serious-but-fun key, appropriate for specialists and non-specialists alike. Cohen has interesting things to say about how the British (and perhaps Americans) balance moral restraint with material abundance. If you know people who are antique collectors and re ...more
A book for the specialist. Cohen documents the changing tastes in furnishing of Victorian English homes, and contrasts these changes with an occasional foray into the modern era. She then ties these images of the home with societal trends and predilections. The latter is less persuasive at times, but she's done her research and you certainly get a good picture of what Victorian homes looked like.
Cohen tries to pack way too much into 200 pages- would have preferred an in depth analysis of a particular city, family, or department store. Frustrating because the characters she keeps introducing and the photographs and old ads are great but the writing and structure of the book didn't engage me.
Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Deborah Cohen was educated at Harvard (BA) and Berkeley (Ph.D.). She is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University. Her speciality is modern European history, with a focus on Britain.