Material Relations: Domestic Interiors and Middle-Class Families in England, 1850-1910

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Material relations tells the story of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century middle-class families by exploring the domestic spaces they inhabited and the material goods they prized. By opening the doors of the house, the book sheds new light on aspects of family life including love, marriage, sex, childhood and death.

Historians have argued that as the nineteenth century waned, domestic spaces became increasingly private. Material relations challenges this, contending that domestic space created a complex series of family intimacies. Until the decline of domestic service after the First World War, the organization of the middle-class home forged a distinctive system of family relations. Relations between husband and wife were fashioned by drawing room politeness, and fastidious sexuality mediated in the marital bedroom. The nursery distanced parent and child, glamourising parents and sometimes embittering children. The allocation of rooms to servants reveals the construction of class relations on a face to face, everyday basis. The book also explores what happened when young people left home, and their relationship with domesticity. Finally the book turns to the impact of death on the home, considering the dismantling of the interior and the role of objects in memory making.

Drawing upon novels, advice manuals and magazines, alongside sources for everyday use such as diaries, autobiographies, sale catalogues and inventories, wills and photographs, this fascinating book will be of particular interest to scholars and students of Modern history, English literature, cultural studies, social geography, history of art and history of design.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages264
ISBN (Print)978-0-7190-7863-7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

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