Journal Article

Barbarity in a Teacup? Punch, Domesticity and Gender in the Eighteenth Century

Karen Harvey

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 21, issue 3, pages 205-221
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2008 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epn022
Barbarity in a Teacup? Punch, Domesticity and Gender in the Eighteenth Century

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The juxtaposition between refinement and barbarity was a critical one in eighteenth-century England. This essay examines the gendered aspects of this distinction as it was manifested in the meanings associated with punchbowls, teacups and punch pots. The new hot drinks of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are now a well-examined subject of historical research. Work on coffee has emphasized consumption in male-dominated coffee houses, places which also served as loci for concerns about uncivil behaviour. In contrast, tea drinking is seen as central to polite domestic sociability, linking women and the home. Punch and the material culture of punch drinking, however, has been subjected to very little historical attention. This essay considers eighteenth-century juxtapositions of tea and punch, exploring therein the distinctions between refinement and barbarity, women and men and home and outside. The article then examines developments in the material culture of punch drinking and the appearance of punch pots from mid-century. The article closes with the argument that these hybrid vessels playfully united masculine homosociability and feminine domesticity, at a time when the discourse of domesticity was being consolidated.

Keywords: domesticity; eighteenth century; gender; Great Britain; material culture

Journal Article.  10454 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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