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.
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.
In the introduction to her long-awaited and extremely interesting study of the popular literature of Victorian interior decoration, Judith Neiswander prepares her readers – and perhaps to a certain extent herself – for their predicted negative reactions to the décor of the late 19th-century middle class home.