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Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England Hardcover – November 17, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If until now the Georgian home has been like a monochrome engraving, Vickery has made it three dimensional and vibrantly colored.  Behind Closed Doors demonstrates that rigorous academic work can also be nosy, gossipy, and utterly engaging.”—Andrea Wulf, New York Times Book Review

(Andrea Wulf New York Times Book Review 2009-12-16)

"Comparison between Vickery and Jane Austen is irresistible. . . This book is almost too pleasurable, in that Vickery's style and delicious nosiness conceal some seriously weighty scholarship."—Lisa Hilton, The Independent

(Lisa Hilton The Independent 2009-12-06)

“This book takes an unstarchy look at domestic life in Georgian England and is full of delicious detail.” — House and Garden
 
(House and Garden)

“Some of the considerable achievements of this important book are Vickery’s sheer mastery of the sources, the originality of her materials and methodology, and the provocations contained in her seductive prose.” — Helen Berry, Reviews in History
 
(Helen Berry Reviews in History)

Shortlisted for the 2009 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History: Behind Closed Doors was highly commended by the judges of the Hessell-Tiltman prize and described as "outstanding in every way."
(Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History English PEN)

Behind Closed Doors was highly commended by the judges of the Hessell-Tiltman prize for history and described as "outstanding in every way."
(Hessell-Tiltman prize for History)

"To say something that is at once original to the expert and exciting to the common reader, the historian must combine a heightened mastery of the material with a clarity of prose. No wonder such works are rare; Amanda Vickery's wonderful book should therefore be celebrated."--The New Republic
(The New Republic)

"Vickery crosses disciplinary divisions and pursues her subject through an array of sources, from diaries and letters and ledgers, to novels, pattern books and advertising. . . . Absorbingly narrated."—Eighteenth-Century Fiction
(Eighteenth-Century Fiction)

About the Author

Amanda Vickery is professor of history, Royal Holloway University of London, and the author of The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England, which won the Whitfield, Wolfson, and Longman History Today prizes.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Third Impression edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300154534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300154535
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Vickery is the prize-winning author of The Gentleman's Daughter (Yale University Press, 1998) and Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 2009), now a 3 part TV series for BBC2 called 'At Home with the Georgians'.

She is Professor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London.

Amanda reviews for The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, The Guardian and BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review, Front Row and Woman's Hour. Her thirty part History of Private Life for BBC Radio 4 is now available on CD.


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By J. F. Wakefield on December 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a great fan of Amanda Vickery's books. And I think that they should be required reading for anyone interested in the social history of the Georgian era.

Her previous work, "The Gentleman's Daughter" was a wonderfully detailed exploration of the intimate lives of women in the 18th century and helped many of us to a greater understanding of Jane Austen's female character's lives, setting them in a recognisable historical context .Her new book "Behind Closed Doors : at home in Georgian England" once again takes the domestic realm as it subject but details it on a much wider scale.

She does not concentrate on one class of people but considers, in minute detail, the intimate lives of landladies and lodgers, tradesmen and women, professionals and aristocrats living in both London and in the provinces.

Its scale is breathtaking and the detail, delicious. And what I really adore is that she admits the historical truth of Jane Austen's writings by including copious quotes from the six novels to illustrate her points. Indeed, she devotes almost half a chapter of the book to consider the way in which the subject of the home is treated by Austen's heroines and heroes, even going so far as to paraphrase the famous opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Georgian house with a drawing room, French windows and lawns must be in want of a mistress..."

It was an irresistible and understandable opportunity ....I daresay had I been given the chance to play with that famous line, I would not have let it pass either...
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
An Englishman's home, as the saying goes, may be his castle, but three hundred years ago it was becoming so much more. In the 18th century, the English home served as a place in which its inhabitants sought to define themselves through the use of décor. As more people socialized in their homes, their living spaces became venues in which their identity could be displayed for others to see for themselves. The emergence and development of this trend is the subject of Amanda Vickery's book, which analyzes the lives of the men and women of Georgian England by examining the homes in which they lived.

In studying Georgian homes, Vickery uses a number of different perspectives. Among her goals is the reintroduction of men into the picture, which she does most notably in her chapter on the homes of bachelors. Yet as she demonstrates, the furnishing and decoration of homes was predominantly a female concern, albeit one often handled in consultation with the men of the household. Such decisions were often mundane, and focused more on simple maintenance rather than grand refurbishment, but all of them reflected the interests of the participants and were shaped by the concept of "taste" that emerged during this period, which charted a path that increasing numbers were compelled to take.

Detailed, insightful, and well-written, Vickery's book offers a fascinating examination of life in Georgian England. Because of the limitations of her sources, it is by necessity an examination focused primarily on the upper classes, yet she succeeds in taking account books, ledgers, and other mundane sources to reconstruct their lives, showing the growing importance of home life and the weight contemporaries placed on defining their domestic environment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Jedele on September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I give the book three stars because of the misleading title, although the fault for that may lie with the publisher rather than with the author. A more accurate title would be: "Academic Papers on Selected Topics in Social and Gender Relations and Taste among the Middle and Upper Classes in Eighteenth Century England." If that is what you are looking for, then you will probably give the book five stars. I was looking for an account of life in the 18th century house, and my rating reflects my disappointment at what I found.

Topics covered in the book include:
-privacy in the 18th century; how much did people have and how did they obtain it?
-the life of bachelors, based on diaries of several young men;
-marriage as a sign of maturity in a man;
-the division of labor between men and women in middle class and wealthy households;
-the significance of various colors in interior decoration, primarily in wallpaper;
-what goods and furniture were considered feminine and which masculine.

Professor Vickery is a scholar and does not write to please the general reader, although in fact she says much in passing that is quite interesting. For example at one point she discusses the evolution of cooking pans in England and at another she notes that ornamental shell-work declined as a fashionable hobby in part due to the plummeting price of shells and the publication of handbooks for shell-work made easy. However, she has a tendency to lapse into academic jargon. For example she writes at one point, "Indubitably, women could use embroidery to interrogate and negotiate the constraints of femininity. Both task and declaration, the significance of ornamental needlework was paradoxical" (page 240 in the paperback edition).
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