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Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England [Paperback]

Amanda Vickery
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

20 Aug 2010
In this brilliant work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who dwelt there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion; bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings; genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper; servants with only a locking box to call their own. Vickery makes ingenious use of upholsterer's ledgers, burglary trials, and other unusual sources to reveal the roles of house and home in economic survival, social success and political representation during the long 18th century. Through the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the language of taste, even modest homes turned into arenas of social campaign and exhibition.

Frequently Bought Together

Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England + The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (Yale Nota Bene) + Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court
Price For All Three: 22.82

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (20 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300168969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300168969
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.9 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Vickery is the writer and presenter of BBC2's 'At Home with the Georgians' based on her book Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale, 2009)

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

Her first book The Gentleman's Daughter (Yale, 1998) won the Wolfson, the Whitfield and the Longman-History today prizes. Her 30 part History of Private Life for BBC Radio 4 is available on CD. She is currently working on another series of the popular Radio 4 show 'Voices from the Old Bailey'.

Amanda Vickery is also the editor of Women, Privilege and Power: British Politics, 1750 to the Present (Stanford, 2001) and Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700-1830 (Yale, 2006).

Amanda has begun a new project on clothes and fashion in the British empire.

Product Description


'...not for a moment is she overwhelmed by the mighty volume of her research. She weaves it all into a compelling narrative packed with anecdote, strange characters and all manner of weird and wonderful details about Georgian home life.' Dan Cruickshank, Country Life. 'Vickery is that rare thing an academic historian who writes like a novelist... an enthralling slice of domestic history.' Jane Shilling, Daily Mail. 'Vickery's great skill lies in combining a sharp forensic eye with the ability to spot and tell stories, moving between different scales so smoothly that you can't see the joins. And then there is the wit of the thing.' Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian. 'We see the Georgians at home as we have never seen them before in this ground-breaking book... Behind Closed Doors is both scholarly and terrifically good fun. Worth staying at home for.' Frances Wilson, Sunday Times. '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. 'Who can resist a book that describes one diarist as a confirmed grumbletonian. One would have to be a confirmed grumbletonian indeed not to find enlightenment - and pleasure - on every page of this book.' Judith Flanders, Sunday Telegraph. 'Behind Closed Doors stands out... [It] not only revels in the details of domestic life, it offers a very funny way of looking at otherwise familiar historical characters.' Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph. 'An evocative account of life in Georgian England... How much we owe historians who trawl through the illegible and scattered archives for us to assemble these alternative accounts of history.' Margaret Drabble, The Guardian. --Dan Cruickshank, Daily Mail, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Independent, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Telegraph,

About the Author

Amanda Vickery is reader in 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. She is also the co-editor, with John Styles, of 'Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700-1830'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, readable history 1 Dec 2009
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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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Apologies for this review not being more substantial, however this book provides great insight into the topic and makes wallpaper far more interesting than it should be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A carefully researched and vigourously presented study of Georgian homelife as interpreted through building, decor, fashion and customs. The study of domestic accounts and of personal correspondence is particularly good, and the contemporary illustrations relate well to the text. The emphasis on the relative roles of men and women in domestic and financial arrangements provides fascinating insight into what many have considered to be a male-dominated society.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The vitally important 'Behind Closed Doors' 8 Oct 2010
By grantz
`Behind Closed Doors' is an astonishing achievement. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement, really - the effect of the book was truly thrilling, in a way you don't expect when you take an academic book off a library shelf.

The writing in the main body of the text let the reader experience an incredibly direct engagement with eighteenth century lives, but at the same time this experience was contextualised by the controlling argument on the book - and all this underpinned by the terrifying range of sources listed in the notes. This is an amazing book. Just order it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 27 July 2014
Found this book very disappointing. Slightly patronising writing style, more in keeping with a series of academic essays than a novel ("this chapter will discuss..."). Also found it rather heavy to read and was relieved to get to the end. Having said that there were some interesting parts and a wealth of detail to help you visualise the era.
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