Genteel women

Empire and domestic material culture, 1840-1910

By Dianne Lawrence

Genteel women


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8803-2
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: October 2012
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History, Social & cultural history, Colonialism & imperialism, HISTORY / Social History, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


During the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, colonial expansion prompted increasing numbers of genteel women to establish their family homes in far-flung corners of the world. This work explores ways in which the women's values, as expressed through their personal and household possessions, specifically their dress, living rooms, gardens and food, were instrumental in constructing various forms of genteel society in alien settings.

Lawrence examines the transfer and adaptation of British female gentility in various locations across the British Empire, including Africa, New Zealand and India. In so doing, she offers a revised reading of the behaviour, motivations and practices of female elites, thereby calling into doubt the oft-stated notion that such women were a constraining element in new societies.


General Editor's introduction
1. Introduction: Gentility and the performance of Self
2. 'Dress indicates mind': the art and practice of appearance management
3. 'The arrangement requires much taste and judgement': creating critical space, the living room
4. 'No-one can overestimate the pleasure of tending flowers': tasteful gardening and growing attachment
5. 'The guests being seated at the dinner table, the lady serves the soup': food and household management
6. Conclusion: The work of migrancy


Dianne Lawrence is an independent scholar

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout