Material relations

Domestic interiors and middle-class families in England, 1850-1910

By Jane Hamlett

Material relations


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7863-7
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: November 2010
  • BIC Category: ARCHITECTURE / Interior Design / General, ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945), Professional Interior Design, The arts / History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -, Art History, History of art, 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999
  • Series: Studies in Design and Material Culture


Material relations tells the story of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century middle-class families by exploring the domestic spaces they inhabited and the material goods they prized. By opening the doors of the house, the book sheds new light on aspects of family life including love, marriage, sex, childhood and death.

Historians have argued that as the nineteenth century waned, domestic spaces became increasingly private. Material relations challenges this, contending that domestic space created a complex series of family intimacies.

Drawing upon novels, advice manuals and magazines, alongside sources for everyday use such as diaries, autobiographies, sale catalogues and inventories, wills and photographs, this fascinating book will be of particular interest to scholars and students of modern history, English literature, cultural studies, social geography, history of art and history of design.


Hamlett has uncovered the complexities of domestic relationships over the life cycle and, in so doing, has offered a more three-dimensional vision of lived experiences in the past., Sandra Trudgen Dawson, Northern Illinois University, Journal of British Studies, 1 April 2012|This is an interesting, worthwhile book which brings together a mass of recent research: it is robustly interdisciplinary in its approach while raising a series of important historical questions about our understanding of Victorian home life., Carol Dyhouse, University of Sussex, 1 June 2012


1. Inside the middle-class home: space and the limits of the private
2. Material marriages: creating domestic interiors, defining marital relationships
3. "Tiresome trips downstairs": childhood experience and the domestic interior
4. Leaving home: schools, colleges and lodgings
5. Death, memory and the reconstruction of home
Epilogue: from Victorian to Modern?


Jane Hamlett is Lecturer in Modern British History at Royal Holloway University of London

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