One of my very favourite books of the year so far, a wonderful all encompassing history of European and American home life as experienced over the past 500 years. Judith Flanders overturns our notions of what home has meant in previous centuries, our own notions of the family home would seem fantastical even to someone from 100 years ago. How advancements have been made are lovingly detailed and the humblest household item is considered alongside more necessary items such as bricks for the walls and glass for the windows. I loved the wealth of detail, the quotations from diaries, letters and literature and how one is left wondering what the future will bring, will future homes be unrecognisable to us?
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The idea that 'home' is a special place, a separate place, a place where we can be our true selves, is so obvious to us today that we barely pause to think about it. But, as Judith Flanders shows in her fascinating new book, 'home' is a relatively new idea. When in 1900 Dorothy assured the citizens of Oz that 'There is no place like home', she was expressing a view that was the climax of 300 years of change. In The Making of Home, Flanders traces the evolution of the house from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century across northern Europe and America, and shows how the 'homes' we know today bear only a faint resemblance to 'homes' though history. Along the way she investigates the development of ordinary household items - from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to the fitted kitchen, plumbing and windows - while also dismantling many domestic myths.
‘The idea of ‘home’ is a relatively recent concept, so when Dorothy assured the citizens of Oz that ‘there is no place like home’, she was expressing a view that was the culmination of centuries of radical change in our view of what ‘home’ means. This book traces the evolution of the house across northern Europe and America from the 16th to the early 20th century and vividly evokes how notions of home have changed. The transformation of a house into a home is an essential cog in the rise of capitalism and the birth of the Industrial Revolution. You can read this book whilst lounging on your sofa, an artefact that didn’t really come into being until about 1740; before that you had either to sit on a bench or sprawl on your bed to read. This is riveting stuff and the almost perfect present for that difficult-to-buy-for person in your life.
Publication date: 02/10/2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
|Publication date:||2nd October 2014|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, eBook Favourites, History, The Real World,|
|Categories:||Social & cultural history, Sociology: customs & traditions, European history, History of the Americas,|
Judith Flanders is the author of the bestselling The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed (2003); the critically acclaimed Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain (2006); A Circle of Sisters (2001), which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award; The Invention of Murder (2011); and, most recently, The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London (2012). She is a frequent contributor to the Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Currently a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, she lives in London. Author photo © Clive BardaMore About Judith Flanders