Porringers and Pitkins

Keith Thomas

  • A Day at Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 by Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson
    Yale, 311 pp, £40.00, October 2017, ISBN 978 0 300 19501 9

The history of domestic life is not a new subject. Like so much else, it was pioneered in the Victorian age, when the cult of domesticity reached its peak. In 1852 the composer Henry Bishop relaunched ‘Home, Sweet Home’, the parlour ballad which the opera singer Jenny Lind made wildly popular. Ten years later the great antiquary Thomas Wright published his History of Domestic Manners and Sentiments in England during the Middle Ages. Reissued in 1871 as The Homes of Other Days, it contained more than three hundred illustrations drawn from medieval manuscripts by the brilliant engraver F.W. Fairholt. Wright was highly informative on domestic lighting, heating, meals, clothes, furniture and recreations, though not as strong on the building and layout of the houses in which people lived. This gap was filled by Thomas Hudson Turner, who worked on household accounts and planned a three-volume work on medieval domestic architecture. It was completed after his death (in 1852) by another architectural historian, John Henry Parker, who also drew on it for Our English Home: Its Early History and Progress (1860).

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