Fashion, heritance and family: new and old in the Georgian country house

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Stobart, Jon ; Rothery, Mark (2014)

This article explores the material culture of the eighteenth century aristocracy through a detailed analysis of the Leigh Family of Stoneleigh Abbey. Drawing on a succession of detailed inventories and a large collection of receipted bills the article explores changes and continuities in the spatiality of material culture at Stoneleigh and, in particular, the ways in which old and new co-existed through the differential construction and use of domestic space. On the basis of this evidence we argue that conspicuous consumption and positional goods were only one aspect of methodologies of distinction in the complex semiotics of status expressed through country house interiors. Rank, dignity and lineage were also expressed through older goods and goods with ‘patina’ value.
  • References (77)
    77 references, page 1 of 8

    1. Shakespeare Central Library and Archive (SCLA), DR18/4/69, Inventory of Stoneleigh Abbey, 1786.

    2. See Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behaviour and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 20-5, for a useful summary of the debates over consumption and consumer motivation. On the link between consumption and identity, see, inter alia: Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (Oxford, 1987); Woodruff Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, 1600-1800 (London, 2002), pp. 189-222. Useful studies of elite consumption include: Hannah Greig, The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian England (Oxford, 2013); Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2005); Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger (eds), Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods (Basingstoke, 2003).

    3. Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions ([1899] London, 1994).

    4. Christopher Christie, The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester, 2000), p. 233.

    5. De Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 45.

    6. Christie, British Country House, p. 45; Peter Mathias, 'The Social Structure in the Eighteenth Century: A Calculation by Joseph Massie', in Peter Mathias (ed.), The Transformation of England: Essays in the Economic and Social History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1979), pp. 171-89.

    7. John Cannon, Aristocratic Century: The Peerage of Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 12-15. Cannon notes the inflation in the granting of peerages but also emphasizes the sustained exclusivity of the group as a proportion of the population.

    8. De Vries, Industrious Revolution, p. 45. See also Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, pp. 81-2; Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2005), pp. 37-43; Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (New Haven, CT, 2009), pp. 18-22, 98-103, 144-5.

    9. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of Judgement and Taste (London, 1986).

    10. Greig, Beau Monde, p. 3.

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