At what point did the British develop their mania for interiors, wallpaper, furniture, and decoration? Why have the middle classes developed so passionate an attachment to the contents of their homes? This absorbing book offers surprising answers to these questions, uncovering the roots of today's consumer society and investigating the forces that shape consumer desires. Richly illustrated, "Household Gods" chronicles a hundred years of British interiors, focusing on class, choice, shopping and possessions. Exploring a wealth of unusual records and archives, Deborah Cohen locates the source of modern consumerism and materialism in early nineteenth-century religious fervour. Over the course of the Victorian era, consumerism shed the taint of sin to become the pre-eminent means of expressing individuality. The book ranges from musty antique shops to luxurious emporia, from suburban semi-detached houses to elegant city villas, from husbands fretting about mantelpieces to women appropriating home decoration as a feminist cause. It uncovers a society of consumers whose identities have become entwined with the things they put in their houses.
Deborah Cohen is associate professor of history at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.