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Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The Architecture of the Home: Familial, Emotional and Material Expressions of Domesticity in Georgian Britain

Tutor: Helen Metcalfe

Module type: MA Option

Module code: HIS00100M

What made a house a home in Georgian Britain, and did men and women experience the home differently? In what ways did the domestic landscape shape notions of family and domesticity, and how did this change over the course of the eighteenth century? This course will consider these and related questions by using the home and its inhabitants as the lens through which to explore several aspects of the social and cultural history of eighteenth-century Britain. It has long been recognised that the power structures of the early-modern home were used as a metaphor for the state, a model that was retained and reiterated in wide ranging political and moral discourse. This model of the eighteenth-century home generated notions of emotional, moral, and spatial stability at the centre of which, it was claimed, was marriage. But to what extent did this ideal reflect contemporary lived experience? This course examines the home as a physical space, but also as a familial, emotional and sociable space. It interrogates diverse types of social relationships and familial units within the home, and illuminates the domestic consumption practices of men and women. It explores the comfort infrastructure of the home through objects and emotions, and evaluates textual and visual representations of the home and domestic life.

Interdisciplinary in its approach, the course draws upon a wide range of secondary literature including history, history of art, literature, historical geography and material culture studies. Students will also assess primary source material which may include diaries and letters, newspapers and novels, portraiture, satirical prints and printed literature.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  • Historiography: home and household
  • Imagining home in images and texts: the home in literature and visual culture.
  • Whose home is it anyway? domesticity and the familial unit.
  • Experiencing home: questions of gender.
  • Furnishing the home: his and hers?
  • Home comforts.
  • The domestic interior: the home as a sociable and performative space.
  • The home, domesticity and identity.


Preliminary Reading

  • Harvey, Karen. The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 [also available as an e-book]
  • Hussey, David and Mary Ponsonby. The Single Homemaker and Material Culture in the Long Eighteenth Century. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012 [also available as an e-book]
  • Tadmor, Naomi. Family and Friends in the Eighteenth Century: Household, Kinship and Patronage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003 [also available as an e-book]
  • Vickery, Amanda. Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. London: Yale University Press, 2010


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.