Sorrowful Things’: Middle-Class Material Culture, Emotion and Mourning in England, 1830-1910

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This project explores the material culture of death in nineteenth-century England. Nineteenth-century funerary culture is often misunderstood and regarded as the manifestation of a commercialised corruption of feeling, through mass production and consumer culture embraced by the middle classes. Utilising new approaches such as material culture history and the history of emotions, I will explore the material culture of mourning and its impact on the English middle-class mourner, with a special look at dress and objects throughout. The project focuses on different sites of mourning including funeral practices and the elaborate material culture that often went with them, the development of new forms of death-related consumption through the establishment of mourning warehouses, the mediation of mourning etiquette through advice literature and magazines, the transformation of the home into a ‘house of mourning’ and the experience of wearing mourning dress. The project reconstructs how mourning in nineteenth-century England operated and how it manifested itself in people’s daily lives. Sources include contemporary print and visual culture, manuscript records and where possible surviving objects which are used to assess the emotional value of the material culture of mourning. Understanding the impact of an extensive mourning culture as seen in nineteenth-century England can help our society today understand the benefits of ritualisation and custom, especially in the context of pandemics, where the absence of ritual has shown a devastating effect on the bereaved.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hamlett, Jane, Supervisor
  • Windscheffel, Alex, Advisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2024


  • Royal Holloway
  • mourning practices
  • History
  • objects
  • Art
  • Painting
  • England
  • France
  • Korean culture
  • emotions history
  • emotions
  • Material Culture
  • Dress History
  • Home
  • gender
  • Museum

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