Keeping House

Karen Harvey

in The Little Republic

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199533848
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740978 | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Social and Cultural History


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This chapter examines the domestic objects and spaces that were meaningful for men and explores how men's domestic engagement and domestic authority was legitimized by the material culture of the house. In ‘keeping house’, men managed goods and people over which they exercised proprietorship, even if legally they did not own them. In doing so, the chapter shows, men rooted themselves and their authority in the physical body of the house. Men engaged with objects as property, inheritance, symbols, makers of memory and relationships, as well as commodities. They consumed low‐value and mundane items alongside larger and intermittent purchases, and the possession and management of these domestic objects created and maintained authority. In their careful management of property and personal investment in meaningful domestic things, the chapter argues, men of the middling‐sorts grounded their identities in the material culture of their domestic lives.

Keywords: material culture; property; consumption; memory; commonplace books; clothing

Chapter.  18820 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Social and Cultural History

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