An Historical Geography of the Child's Bedroom: Texts, Space and Subjectivity

  • Adcock, Jamie (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


This research explores the development of children's bedrooms in Britain from approximately 1870 onward. It focuses particularly upon the bedroom's relationship with three key genres of text, and examines how each works (or worked) to structure the material space of the bedroom, practices and activities within, and the experience of childhood and parenthood.

Acknowledging the affective relationship between texts, space and subjectivity, the research aims to reaffirm the validity of textual research by advancing a reading technique that looks beyond representation and symbolism and toward embodied practices and identities. An extended textual analysis engages with the effects of reading and the use of texts as material objects, and analyses how depictions and descriptions of bedrooms on paper shape real-life rooms and influence individual behaviour.

The thesis is divided into three main studies. The first explores the nursery of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through advice printed within child-rearing manuals. A broad Foucauldian approach looks upon manuals as bodies of discourse that impose upon parental thinking and action, and reveals how they contributed toward a highly regulated environment designed to support children’s bodily health and mental development. The second reviews the contribution of interwar and post-war magazines in creating a bedroom space with which most are familiar today. It concentrates specifically upon the material culture of the bedroom and explores how the crafting or materialising of space was a complex process involving multiple agencies and fields of practice. The third explores the imaginative geographies of bedrooms from within post-war children’s picture books, and considers the psychological and emotional effects of their situated reading within the bedroom.

Through an engagement with different kinds of textuality, this research illustrates the various ways in which texts have contributed to the making and everyday experience of children’s bedrooms since the late nineteenth century. In so doing, it underlines the value of texts as key material sources through which to explore the fabric of everyday life, and the making and re-making of space and subjectivity more generally.

This thesis has recently been submitted for examination.
Effective start/end date1/10/0730/09/11