John Tosh's book is a signal event. It celebrates the full coming of age of the history of masculinity as a recognised academic sub-discipline. If Davidoff and Hall laid the foundations in this respect, Tosh finally establishes and opens up the field.
The concept of ‘separate spheres’, or the organisation of society into a private, domestic, female world and an active, public, male domain, is closely associated with Victorian society and, arguably, has had a pervasive influence upon gender relations since. Women’s sphere was that of the home, or activities closely connected with it.
The homes of the British middle class in the third quarter of the 19th century, as depicted in contemporary photographs, were cluttered with furniture, soft furnishings and objects. Walking across a room required careful negotiation of lightweight tables that might easily topple over and spill the numerous items that decorated their surface.
For various reasons housing is important to everyone and thus it has rarely been far from the centre of political debate in Britain. As the main urban land use, housing is a valuable and scarce resource, and if politics are about command over resources then housing is inescapably a political issue.
When historians of the future come to write about the historiographical preoccupations of 21st-century Britons, they surely will observe our growing obsession with consumer behaviour and material culture.
This formidable and scholarly volume, a major contribution to urban, social and cultural history, is first and foremost a tribute to one of its co-authors, Charles McKean, the distinguished architectural historian, who sadly died when the book was being written.
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.