Household Gods (Paperback)

The British and their Possessions

By Deborah Cohen

Yale University Press, 9780300136418, 336pp.

Publication Date: October 27, 2009

List Price: 25.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A fascinating account of the British preoccupation with homes, interior decoration, and personal possessions since 1830

At what point did the British develop their mania for interiors, wallpaper, furniture, and decoration? Why have the middle classes developed so passionate an attachment to the contents of their homes? This absorbing book offers surprising answers to these questions, uncovering the roots of today’s consumer society and investigating the forces that shape consumer desires. Richly illustrated, Household Gods chronicles a hundred years of British interiors, focusing on class, choice, shopping, and possessions.

Exploring a wealth of unusual records and archives, Deborah Cohen locates the source of modern consumerism and materialism in early nineteenth-century religious fervor. Over the course of the Victorian era, consumerism shed the taint of sin to become the preeminent means of expressing individuality. The book ranges from musty antique shops to luxurious emporia, from suburban semi-detached houses to elegant city villas, from husbands fretting about mantelpieces to women appropriating home decoration as a feminist cause. It uncovers a society of consumers whose identities have become entwined with the things they put in their houses.

About the Author

Deborah Cohen is associate professor of history at Brown University. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.