Household Gods

Winner of the Forkosch Prize of the American Historical Association, 2007
Co-winner of the North American Conference on British Studies’ Albion Prize, 2007
Short-listed for English PEN’s Hessell-Tiltman Prize, 2007

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 pre-eminent 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.

Press Reviews

The Relentless Rise of Coffee-Table Cults

Friday, March 16, 2007
The Times Higher Education Supplement
John Storey

Household Gods is engagingly written, well researched and beautifully illustrated.”
It is a commonplace to say we now live in an age of home makeover and do-it-yourself television programmes and at a time when more people go to DIY stores than go to church. Deborah Cohen's wonderful book begins by describing the effort by the Reverend Mark Rylands to reverse these trends. His strangely inappropriately titled "Get a Life" campaign aims to bring God back into our supposedly irreligious consumer culture.