Given the long list of esteemed academics who have contributed to this volume, it is hardly surprising that the level of research and analysis is exemplary to the field.
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Jon Stobart, who has edited the book with Andrew Hann, acknowledges in his introduction that there is no shortage of works on a similar subject, but what differentiates this from any of the other works weighing down the shelves of libraries is its holistic approach. It is inclusive geographically in that it references homes in the Dutch Republic, Ireland, Spain, France, and Sweden. The subject matter ranges from architecture to the collection of Japanese porcelain, and even to the consumption of music in an Irish household. Most importantly, it is a careful consideration of the rationales that spurred the decisions made by homeowners (of both sexes) for the maintenance and enrichment of their households.
Stobart has chosen five key areas on which to focus: motivations for collecting----the all-important ‘why’ of history; the link between consumption and identity----inasmuch as taste was vital to membership within the elite, how was it acquired; the appeal of practical considerations (such as comfort and convenience) over the siren call of novelty; the crucial role played by the recycling of goods, either within or without the home; and the importance of shopping, especially for household items which were expected to garner a measure of prestige in their presentation.
This is an important addition to the libraries of those with an interest in material culture in Britain during the early modern period. While the book’s approach is more scholastic than it is populist, there are chapters that will appeal as much to the casual country house visitor as to the learned academic.
Publisher: Historic England, Swindon
Publication date: 2016