Household Gods - Cohen, Deborah - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

Household Gods

The British and their Possessions

  • Deborah Cohen
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Out of Print.

Shortlisted for English PEN's Hessel-Tiltman History Prize

Winner of the 2007 Morris D. Forkosch prize given by the American Historical Association, for the best book in English on Britain since 1485.

Co-winner of the 2007Albion Book Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies for the best book on any aspect of British Studies since 1800.

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 todays consumer society and investigating the forces that shape consumer desires. Richly illustrated, Household Gods chronicles a hundred years of British interiors, focusing on class, choice, shopping, and possessions.

Exploring a wealth of unusual records and archives, Deborah Cohen locates the source of modern consumerism and materialism in early nineteenth-century religious fervor. Over the course of the Victorian era, consumerism shed the taint of sin to become the preeminent means of expressing individuality. The book ranges from musty antique shops to luxurious emporia, from suburban semi-detached houses to elegant city villas, from husbands fretting about mantelpieces to women appropriating home decoration as a feminist cause. It uncovers a society of consumers whose identities have become entwined with the things they put in their houses.

Deborah Cohen is associate professor of history at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.