Both the problematic discourses of ‘professional/amateur’ and ‘public/private spheres’, and also the multifaceted hierarchies between the fine and the applied arts, have received substantial academic enquiry in the last thirty years. This is particularly true for the art historians researching the cultural activities of middle-class women in 19th-century Britain.
Julie-Marie Strange’s study of Victorian and Edwardian fatherhood begins with a question. In her 1908 collection of essays, M. E. Loane, a district nurse, asked, ‘Is the working-class father as black as he is painted?’ (p. 1). It is this question that animates the exploration of the problematic narratives and stereotypes of fatherhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries that follows.
In contemporary understanding, a kitchen is a space which houses a heat source and appropriate utensils for preparing meals. How and why this kind of kitchen emerged in England between the 17th and mid-19th century is the story that Pennell set out to uncover.
The age of lesbian and gay, in which those were the dominant terms for homoeroticism and other things that seemed (sometimes arbitrarily) to be related to it, appears to be over.
In Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation, Emily West masterfully presents the narrative of women’s lived experiences in slavery through the prism of gender.
The fight for marriage equality in the United States, which made significant progress in 2015 with the Supreme Court ruling that ‘no American can be denied the freedom to marry because of their sexual orientation’, highlighted that access to marriage has long been the privilege of those who conformed to normative ideas of sexuality and domesticity prescribed by the elite and powerful.
The greatest indictment of the hard-driving slave system in the 18th-century British Caribbean was that the enslaved population never achieved natural population increase (except briefly in Barbados but only by 1810). Abolitionists seized on the failure of slave populations to thrive as a sign that slavery was immoral.
A Day at Home in Early Modern England does precisely as the title suggests – it takes its reader through the minutiae of a day in early modern England in painstaking detail using a combination of literary sources, historical documents (including court records, wills and inventories) and household objects.
It is an ambitious book that would try to cover the Conquest of Mexico, the rise and fall of the country’s hacienda system, the emergence of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the intricacies of Emiliano Zapata’s role in the Mexican Revolution, and the exodus of women from rural regions in the mid-1960s to look for work as ‘household help’ in the nation’s fast-growing capital city.
Briony McDonagh estimates that over 10 per cent of land in Georgian Britain was owned by female landowners. Assuming her sample of 250,000 acres to be representative of broader patterns and trends, McDonagh surmises that ‘somewhere in excess of 3 million acres in England were owned by women in the later eighteenth century and more than 6 million acres in Great Britain as a whole’ (p. 27).