The invention of comfort : sensibilities & design in early modern Britain & early America /
John E. Crowley.
Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, c2001.
xi, 361 p. : ill., plans ; 25 cm.
0801864372 (alk. paper)
More Details
Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, c2001.
0801864372 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
John E. Crowley is George Munro Professor of History at Dalhousie University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-11-01:
Comfort meant moral and spiritual support in 1400; by 1800 it had more to do with physical amenities. Crowley (Dalhousie Univ.) explores the web of technological and sociopsychological changes in these centuries and demonstrates how, in stages, the lure of fashion rather than the benefit of inventions altered the public notion of comfort. He surveys chimneyed fireplaces and glazed windows in relation to the rise of private parlors; candles, mirrors, and the umbrella in relation to the political economy of luxury and necessity; and stoves, lamps, and the verandah in relation to the aesthetics of the cottage. Crowley rejects simple explanations and expertly reconstructs complex histories of technology, social behavior, and ideology, crisscrossing the vast documentary sources and achieving an impressive grand synthesis across several disciplines. Catherine Beecher and Andrew Jackson Downing somewhat abruptly bring the narrative to a conclusion; it would have been more complete had Crowley carried us a few decades down to the postbellum agglutinative Anglo-American house, a paradigm of domestic comfort. He provides 55 pages of endnotes but no bibliography. For all libraries. All levels. T. K. Kitao Swarthmore College
Review Quotes
"This is a powerful book, full of startling information and valuable insights." -- Rhys Isaac, American Historical Review
"Every page offers interesting detail, worthwhile insights, and useful connections -- the illustrations are a major contribution in themselves... It will be a standard reference work in material culture studies."--Peter Charles HofferUniversity of Georgia, author of The Devil's Disciples and Law and People in Colonial America
"Riveting... A solid contribution to the literature on the cultural impact of gentility, refinement, and the 'baubles of Britain' in England and its colonial possessions." -- Journal of American History
"Riveting... This book is a solid contribution to the literature on the cultural impact of gentility, refinement, and the 'baubles of Britain' in England and its colonial possessions."--Robert Blair St. George, Journal of American History
"The Invention of Comfort is an important and thought-provoking book that challenges our understanding of why people live that way they do." -- Marie Morgan, New England Quarterly
"The sheer range of evidence, the interweaving of themes, and the overall strength of the argument mean [this] is an ideal book for specialists and students alike."--Helen Clifford, Journal of Design History
"This is a grand panorama that stretches from medieval times through the antebellum years and covers a geographic area from England to the West Indies and then some. Crowley makes a successful case for the 'invention' of comfort and especially for the cultural influences on that process."--Molly W. Berger, Technology and Culture
"Crowley provides a masterly search and survey that no historian of material culture should miss, and every curious reader should consider."--Eugen Weber, Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter
"Good books cross lines drawn in the sand by others. Terrific books scatter the sand and redraw the lines. John E. Crowley's The Invention of Comfort is one of the latter... A masterful and sweeping interpretation of material culture evidence that asks important historical questions."--Ann Smart Martin, Journal of Social History
"Crowley invites his readers to follow him upon an engaging and meticulously detailed tour of the living spaces of English people."--Natalie Zacek, H-Albion, H-Net Reviews
"A comprehensive and tight study... a valuable contribution to the field, [and] one that is enjoyable to read."--Emma Hart, English Historical Review
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
How did our modern ideas of physical well-being originate? As John Crowley demonstrates in The Invention of Comfort, changes in sensible technology owed a great deal to fashion-conscious elites discovering discomfort in surroundings they earlier had felt to be satisfactory. Written in an engaging style that will appeal to historians and material culture specialists as well as to general readers, this pathbreaking work brings together such disparate topics of analysis as climate, fire, food, clothing, the senses, and anxiety -- especially about the night.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Traditional Architectural Amenity
Commodious Comfort: Hall and Hearth, Chamber and Chimneyp. 3
Civil Comfort: Mansion Housesp. 45
Colonial Comfort: Vernacular and Elegant Optionsp. 79
From Luxury to Comfort
Decent Comfort: Candles and Mirrorsp. 111
Convenient Comfort: Political Economyp. 141
Enlightened Comfort: Stoves and Lampsp. 171
The Landscape of Comfort
Picturesque Comfort: The Cottagep. 203
Healthy Comfort: The Piazzap. 230
Gendered Comfort: House Design Booksp. 260
Conclusionp. 290
Notesp. 293
Indexp. 349
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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