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Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England

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Overview

In this brilliant new work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion, bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings, genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper, servants with only a locking box to call their own.

Vickery makes ingenious use of upholsterer’s ledgers, burglary trials, and other unusual sources to reveal the roles of house and home in economic survival, social success, and political representation during the long eighteenth century. Through the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the language of taste, even modest homes turned into arenas of social campaign and exhibition.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review

"Amanda Vickery''s study charts Georgian''s ceaseless attempts, successful and not, to form homes and homelike spaces for themselves and then furnish them with objects that expressed their personalities, their status, and their times."—Margaret R. Hunt, American Historical Review

— Margaret R. Hunt

The Journal of British Studies
“An impressive book. Vickery should take a bow for her masterful use of visual and material culture as objects of historical inquiry.”—The Journal of British Studies
Yorkshire Evening Post
"In this brilliant work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England....Writing with her customary wit and nerve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life."—Yorkshire Evening Post
Islington Tribune

"Vickery’s stunning new book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England, is a serious innovative, in-depth study of Georgian Society."—Ruth Gorb, Islington Tribune

— Ruth Gorb

The Good Book Guide
“This detailed slice of Georgian domestic history, is as fascinating as a novel.”—The Good Book Guide
Country Life

"Professor Vickery is a thorough and disciplined academic who has trawled through many often obscure archives and tapped unusual or long neglected reservoirs of information. But not for a moment is she overwhelmed by the mighty volume of her research. She weaves it all into a compelling narrative packed with anecdote, strange characters and all manner of weird and wonderful details about Georgian home life."—Dan Cruickshank, Country Life

— Dan Cruickshank

Daily Mail

"Vickery is that rare thing an academic historian who writes like a novelist... an enthralling slice of domestic history."—Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

— Jane Shilling

The Guardian

“An evocative account of life in Georgian England … How much we owe historians who trawl through the illegible and scattered archives for us to assemble these alternative accounts of history.” — Margaret Drabble, The Guardian

— Margaret Drabble

Sunday Times

"We see the Georgians at home as we have never seen them before in this ground-breaking book. Vickery can make a young wife’s arrangement of china into an event of thrilling social and psychological tension. Behind Closed Doors is both scholarly and terrifically good fun. Worth staying at home for."—Frances Wilson, Sunday Times

— Frances Wilson

History Today

“A deeply moving investigation into the domestic lives of our 18th-century ancestors. A scholar of the highest order, Vickery has scoured over 60 archives and … has unearthed wonderful sources … In supple, elegant prose she repeatedly shows that domestic routines and choices were intertwined with political and public participation … A book full of fascinating discoveries – and radically important conclusions.” — Kate Williams, History Today

— Kate Williams

The Sunday Telegraph

‘In history… the study if homes and home life has undergone a revolution in the past few decades. One of the leading figures in that revolution is Amanda Vickery. Who can resist a book that describes one diarist as a confirmed grumbletonian. One would have to be a confirmed grumbletonian indeed not to find enlightenment – and pleasure – on every page of this book.’ — Judith Flanders, The Sunday Telegraph

— Judith Flanders

International Herald Tribune

‘[Vickery] opens resolutely shut doors and peeps into the private lives of servants, aristocrats and the “polite and middling sorts” – merchants, clergy members, doctors and lawyers…Ms. Vickery’s greatest achievement is to upend the notion that the home was divided into separate spheres in which men were responsible for brick and stone while women ruled over domestic life. Instead, she brilliantly shows that these boundaries were fluid and mutable…Few writers have such a talent for transforming the driest historical source into a gripping narrative.’ — Andrea Wulf, International Herald Tribune

— Andrea Wulf

Times LIterary Supplement

‘What Vickery illuminates, often brilliantly, always entertainingly and through a myriad of examples from many different people, are the ways in which family and gender relations were played out in Georgian England.’

— Stella Tillyard

The Scotsman

‘Amanda Vickery’s beautifully textured exploration of domestic life.’ — Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

— Michael Kerrigan

The Georgian

‘Relying on documents such as account books, journals, letters, inventories and wills, Vickery paints pictures for her readers…Vickery discusses not only the appearance in everyday life in Georgian England but also the nature of the relationships within it…Behind Closed Doors is a fascinating contribution to our understanding of the Georgian period.’ — Jocelyn Anderson, The Georgian

— Jocelyn Anderson

Daily Telegraph
'This history of house interiors in Georgian England is a sparkling and erudite work from one of our best historians.' — Daily Telegraph
Independent on Sunday

“A perfect balance between academic and popular history … In a sense, this is history on the scale of the famous square of ivory on which [Jane] Austen claimed the ideal novel should be created: graceful, delicate, sparkling with sprezzatura … This book is almost too pleasurable.” — Lisa Hilton, Independent on Sunday

— Lisa Hilton

Contemporary Review
''This is social history as it should be written…Yale has allowed a wealth of illustrations - over 100 - which adds to the book''s enjoyment.'' — E.B, Contemporary Review

— E.B.

Times Literary Supplement

‘What Vickery illuminates, often brilliantly, always entertainingly and through a myriad of examples from many different people, are the ways in which family and gender relations were played out in Georgian England.’ — Stella Tillyard. Times Literary Supplement

— Stella Tillyard

London Review of Books

''In Behind Closed Doors her sparkling, richly detailed investigation of what she calls ''the hazy background'' to the Georgian household … Vickery finds a great deal of information about everyday life, much of it previously hidden." — Gillian Darley, London Review of Books

— Gillian Darley

Country Life - Dan Cruickshank
"Professor Vickery is a thorough and disciplined academic who has trawled through many often obscure archives and tapped unusual or long neglected reservoirs of information. But not for a moment is she overwhelmed by the mighty volume of her research. She weaves it all into a compelling narrative packed with anecdote, strange characters and all manner of weird and wonderful details about Georgian home life."—Dan Cruickshank, Country Life
Daily Mail - Jane Shilling
"Vickery is that rare thing an academic historian who writes like a novelist... an enthralling slice of domestic history."—Jane Shilling, Daily Mail
The Guardian - Kathryn Hughes
"Vickery's great skill lies in combining a sharp forensic eye with the ability to spot and tell stories, moving between different scales so smoothly that you can't see the joins. And then there is the wit of the thing. Few academic historians manage to be so funny without compromising the seriousness of their work. She did it 10 years ago in The Gentleman's Daughter and she has done it again here. It was worth the wait."—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
Sunday Times - Frances Wilson
"We see the Georgians at home as we have never seen them before in this ground-breaking book. Vickery can make a young wife’s arrangement of china into an event of thrilling social and psychological tension. Behind Closed Doors is both scholarly and terrifically good fun. Worth staying at home for."—Frances Wilson, Sunday Times
History Today - Christina Hardyment
"[Vickery] describes Enlightenment domesticity and the growth of elegant taste with wonderful aplomb and infectious enthusiasm ... [Behind Closed Doors] is especially gorgeous in unusual and telling illustrations.”—Christina Hardyment, History Today
John Mullan
"Amanda Vickery has uncovered wonderful stories and characters, and written a book that is amusing as it is scholarly. You can hear her voice on every page."—John Mullan
Dr. Jason Edwards
"How many academic books make readers laugh out loud? My guess is that I won’t be alone in having that experience of Behind Closed Doors ... [Behind Closed Doors] reveals in a fundamentally novel way how the language of taste actually functioned for those outside of the well-known literary and philosophical elite in this period. Indeed, as someone who imagined they knew the scholarship on interiors, I learned something on almost every page; and it’s also not a small thing to say that unlike almost all the other published books on interiors available, I got the strongest possible sense that Vickery had lived in an interior, and understood how interiors work on a day to day level." - Dr. Jason Edwards, University of York
Dr. Kate Retford
"Vickery is rare as an author who can speculate as to how certain events might actually have felt to those involved, whilst keeping the discussion firmly rooted in the sources and not seeming overfanciful. This is a beautifully written book. It includes important research and thorough engagement with current debates, whilst managing to tell a whole series of cracking good stories."—Dr. Kate Retford, Birkbeck College, University of London
The Sunday Telegraph - Judith Flanders
‘In history… the study if homes and home life has undergone a revolution in the past few decades. One of the leading figures in that revolution is Amanda Vickery. Who can resist a book that describes one diarist as a confirmed grumbletonian. One would have to be a confirmed grumbletonian indeed not to find enlightenment – and pleasure – on every page of this book.’ — Judith Flanders, The Sunday Telegraph
Times Literary Supplement - Stella Tillyard
‘What Vickery illuminates, often brilliantly, always entertainingly and through a myriad of examples from many different people, are the ways in which family and gender relations were played out in Georgian England.’ — Stella Tillyard. Times Literary Supplement
The Scotsman - Michael Kerrigan
‘Amanda Vickery’s beautifully textured exploration of domestic life.’ — Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
The Georgian - Jocelyn Anderson
‘Relying on documents such as account books, journals, letters, inventories and wills, Vickery paints pictures for her readers…Vickery discusses not only the appearance in everyday life in Georgian England but also the nature of the relationships within it…Behind Closed Doors is a fascinating contribution to our understanding of the Georgian period.’ — Jocelyn Anderson, The Georgian
Daily Telegraph - Dominic Sandbrook
“[Behind Closed Doors] stands out … [It] not only revels in the details of domestic life, it offers a very funny way of looking at otherwise familiar historical characters. Whoever would have guessed that the Duke of Cumberland, the Butcher of Culloden, had such an eye for a well-turned vase?” — Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph
The Guardian - Margaret Drabble
“An evocative account of life in Georgian England … How much we owe historians who trawl through the illegible and scattered archives for us to assemble these alternative accounts of history.” — Margaret Drabble, The Guardian
History Today - Kate Williams
“A deeply moving investigation into the domestic lives of our 18th-century ancestors. A scholar of the highest order, Vickery has scoured over 60 archives and … has unearthed wonderful sources … In supple, elegant prose she repeatedly shows that domestic routines and choices were intertwined with political and public participation … A book full of fascinating discoveries – and radically important conclusions.” — Kate Williams, History Today
The Independent - Sarah Bakewell
‘A nuanced and often shocking portrait of the Georgian home … Vickery builds up [her] conclusions carefully from the evidence and writes wit verve and wit. Her book is strengthened by its confinement to respectable society, where her arguments about solitude and substance ring true.’ Sarah Bakewell, The Independent
Contemporary Review - E.B.
'This is social history as it should be written…Yale has allowed a wealth of illustrations - over 100 - which adds to the book's enjoyment.' — E.B, Contemporary Review
London Review of Books - Gillian Darley
'In Behind Closed Doors her sparkling, richly detailed investigation of what she calls 'the hazy background' to the Georgian household … Vickery finds a great deal of information about everyday life, much of it previously hidden." — Gillian Darley, London Review of Books
Elle Decor - Mitchell Owens
"Driven by colorful diaries of the time, as well as illuminating letters and other contemporary material such as household accounts, Vickery's scholarly but amusing narrative brings the high and lows of Georgian housekeeping to brilliant life.—Mitchell Owens, Elle Decor
Sunday Telegraph - KO
'Amanda Vickery breathes new life into 18th century society.' — KO, Sunday Telegraph

Economic History Review - Jason Kelly
“Vickery's Behind Closed Doors once again displays the expert scholarship, interpretive nuance, and deft writing that makes her work a pleasure to read.” —Jason Kelly, Economic History Review
American Historical Review - Margaret R. Hunt
"Amanda Vickery's study charts Georgian's ceaseless attempts, successful and not, to form homes and homelike spaces for themselves and then furnish them with objects that expressed their personalities, their status, and their times."—Margaret R. Hunt, American Historical Review
Journal of Design History Vol. 23, No. 1 - Margaret Ponsonby
"On every page, she includes a reference to a novel or play, a religious tract, legal statute or similar. By the conclusion the reader is more knowledgeable about the Georgian world as well as having glimpsed the private life of the Georgian home, but Vickery presents her material with such a light touch that the reader is thoroughly entertained along the way. It is quite simply a ‘good read’."—Margaret Ponsonby, Journal of Design History Vol. 23, No. 1
Islington Tribune - Ruth Gorb
"Vickery’s stunning new book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England, is a serious innovative, in-depth study of Georgian Society."—Ruth Gorb, Islington Tribune
Year's Work in English Studies
“This richly illustrated and detailed account of the domestic world of the long eighteenth century examines the home as the central location for theories of society, politeness, economics, authority, and gender.”—Year’s Work in English Studies
Contemporary Review - E.B.
'This is social history as it should be written…Yale has allowed a wealth of illustrations - over 100 - which adds to the book's enjoyment.' — E.B, Contemporary Review
Sunday Telegraph

''Amanda Vickery breathes new life into 18th century society.'' — KO, Sunday Telegraph

— KO

Economic History Review

“Vickery''s Behind Closed Doors once again displays the expert scholarship, interpretive nuance, and deft writing that makes her work a pleasure to read.” —Jason Kelly, Economic History Review

— Jason Kelly

Andrea Wulf
Vickery's greatest achievement is to upend the notion that the home was divided into separate spheres in which men were responsible for brick and stone while women ruled over domestic life. Instead, Vickery brilliantly shows that these boundaries were fluid and mutable…If until now the Georgian home has been like a monochrome engraving, Vickery has made it three dimensional and vibrantly colored. Behind Closed Doors demonstrates that rigorous academic work can also be nosy, gossipy and utterly engaging.
—The New York Times
New York Times Book Review

“If until now the Georgian home has been like a monochrome engraving, Vickery has made it three dimensional and vibrantly colored. Behind Closed Doors demonstrates that rigorous academic work can also be nosy, gossipy, and utterly engaging.”—Andrea Wulf, New York Times Book Review

— Andrea Wulf

The Independent

‘A nuanced and often shocking portrait of the Georgian home … Vickery builds up [her] conclusions carefully from the evidence and writes wit verve and wit. Her book is strengthened by its confinement to respectable society, where her arguments about solitude and substance ring true.’ Sarah Bakewell, The Independent

— Sarah Bakewell

House and Garden
“This book takes an unstarchy look at domestic life in Georgian England and is full of delicious detail.” — House and Garden

Reviews in History

“Some of the considerable achievements of this important book are Vickery’s sheer mastery of the sources, the originality of her materials and methodology, and the provocations contained in her seductive prose.” — Helen Berry, Reviews in History

— Helen Berry

English PEN - Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History
Shortlisted for the 2009 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History: Behind Closed Doors was highly commended by the judges of the Hessell-Tiltman prize and described as "outstanding in every way."
Hessell-Tiltman prize for History
Behind Closed Doors was highly commended by the judges of the Hessell-Tiltman prize for history and described as "outstanding in every way."
New York Times Book Review - Andrea Wulf
“If until now the Georgian home has been like a monochrome engraving, Vickery has made it three dimensional and vibrantly colored. Behind Closed Doors demonstrates that rigorous academic work can also be nosy, gossipy, and utterly engaging.”—Andrea Wulf, New York Times Book Review

The Independent - Lisa Hilton
"Comparison between Vickery and Jane Austen is irresistible. . . This book is almost too pleasurable, in that Vickery's style and delicious nosiness conceal some seriously weighty scholarship."—Lisa Hilton, The Independent
Reviews in History - Helen Berry
“Some of the considerable achievements of this important book are Vickery’s sheer mastery of the sources, the originality of her materials and methodology, and the provocations contained in her seductive prose.” — Helen Berry, Reviews in History
Eighteenth-Century Fiction
"Vickery crosses disciplinary divisions and pursues her subject through an array of sources, from diaries and letters and ledgers, to novels, pattern books and advertising. . . . Absorbingly narrated."—Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Elle Decor

"Driven by colorful diaries of the time, as well as illuminating letters and other contemporary material such as household accounts, Vickery''s scholarly but amusing narrative brings the high and lows of Georgian housekeeping to brilliant life.--Mitchell Owens, Elle Decor

— Mitchell Owens

The New Republic
"To say something that is at once original to the expert and exciting to the common reader, the historian must combine a heightened mastery of the material with a clarity of prose. No wonder such works are rare; Amanda Vickery's wonderful book should therefore be celebrated."—The New Republic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300168969
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 788,890
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Amanda Vickery is professor of history, Royal Holloway University of London, and the author of The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England, which won the Whitfield, Wolfson, and Longman History Today prizes.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vi

List of Illustrations xi

Introduction 1

1 Thresholds and Boundaries at Home 25

2 Men Alone 49

3 Setting up Home 83

4 His and Hers 106

5 Rooms at the Top 129

6 Wallpaper and Taste 166

7 The Trials of Domestic Dependence 184

8 A Nest of Comforts 207

9 What Women Made 231

10 A Sex in Things? 257

Conclusion 291

Notes 308

Manuscript Collections 350

Select Bibliography 359

Index 368

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