“Family life makes Tories of us all”: Love and power at home in Georgian England

Tuesday 22 November 2011, from 6pm

The Octagon, Queen’s Building, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End, London, E1 4NS

First Annual Lecture of the Centre for Studies of Home

Amanda Vickery, Professor of Early Modern History

To see the state in miniature one need only go home. Husbands were to govern wives, masters and mistresses to rule servants, and parents to discipline children. The years after 1688 saw the acceptance of new ideas about political authority and social manners, but the household hierarchy endured regardless. ‘Family life’, it was observed in 1779, ‘makes Tories of us all… see if any Whig wishes to see the beautiful Utopian expansion of power within his own walls’.

Nevertheless, the content and meaning of domestic life was transformed over the eighteenth century. New ideals of politeness revolutionized domestic manners and interactions amongst the modestly propertied, while the vogue for sensibility in novels and paintings inflated expectations about affection and happiness at home. What then was the balance of love and power in eighteenth-century marriage and family life? And how did dependents live with the contradictions? ‘Do you not admire these lovers of liberty!’ snapped Elizabeth Montagu in 1765 ‘I am not sure that Cato did not kick his wife.’

Amanda Vickery is the author of Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale, 2009) and The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (Yale, 1998) which won the Wolfson, the Whitfield and the Longman/History Today prize. She is the editor of Women, Privilege and Power: British Politics 1750 to the Present (Stanford, 2001) and Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America (Yale, 2006). In 2011, she judged the BBC Samuel Johnson prize. Her next project for BBC2 is a documentary on the readers of Jane Austen to be broadcast this autumn.

Centre for Studies of Home
The home has become an important focus of research, spanning work on the domestic sphere, including everyday life, architecture, interior design and material cultures, to the significance of home beyond the domestic, including broader ideas about dwelling, belonging, privacy and security. Launched in February 2011, the Centre for Studies of Home is a partnership between The Geffrye Museum of the Home and Queen Mary, University of London and is directed by Alison Blunt (Professor of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London) and Eleanor John (Head of Collections and Exhibitions, Geffrye). The centre aims to create an internationally important hub of research, knowledge transfer and dissemination activities on past and present homes.

As well as its annual lecture, the centre also convenes a CSH seminar programme 2011 at the Institute of Historical Research, postgraduate study days, and a range of workshops. Research projects affiliated with the centre include an AHRC project on ‘Living with the past at home: domestic prehabitation and inheritance’ (Catherine Nash, Principal Investigator). Please email: studiesofhome@qmul.ac.uk for further information about the centre’s activities and to join its research register.

Booking information

The lecture is free to attend, but booking is required. Book your place here.

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