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Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History Paperback – January 26, 1994
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About the Author
Mark Girouard is one of Britain's leading architectural historians. His books include The English Town, Cities and People, The Victorian Country House, The Return to Camelot, Robert Smythson and the Elizabethan Country House, Victorian Pubs, Sweetness and Light, and Town and Country.
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He provides a perspective on the life of the upper class in England for over 500 years. You see how they dined, entertained, slept, socialized, and interacted with their servants, tenants, King and Queen and villagers. There are accompanying images - about 250 with 33 in color. I would have liked more color images, but wouldn't have wanted to sacrifice much of the text for it. There were enough images to support the author's major points.
Some of the details which fascinated:
* the word 'parlour' came from monastic context in the monks' telling rooms - the word came via the French parler: to talk
* in the 1600's it was more important to be witty than learned. Folks admired 'the device' or ingenuity which appeared in their homes, too
* closets weren't initially clothes-storage place - closets were for the owner's private space where he/she met his/her closest friends and occasional romantic liasons
* Elizabeth I had her own homes, but preferred to stay in others - if a Lord or individual got too powerful or rich, she and her entourage would stay with them and cause financial hardship
* Libraries weren't originally in house plans until after the 1600's as most owners didn't own too many books, and book learning
wasn't as important until later
* Symmetry represented divine order - as many marriages were arranged for political and financial regions, male and female had their own rooms and space
There are many more fascinating details in this book. It is highly informative, and might take a second reading to grasp it all. You will feel you are sitting in an engaging class on architectural and social history at Oxford while reading this book