Home Comforts: The physical and emotional meanings of home in Europe,1650-1900


Home comforts. The physical and emotional meanings of home in Europe,1650-1900


Manchester Metropolitan University, 5-6 October 2017


Home is widely recognised as a place of emotional attachment, often expressed and articulated through material objects which lie at the heart of attempts to uncover what made a house into a home. One important aspect of this is the notion of comfort, both in a physical and emotional sense; yet comfort is a relative term, its fulfilment dependent upon a wide range of economic, social, cultural, environmental and psychological factors – from wealth to the weather, and from family to fashion. This conference aims to explore the wide range of ways in which ideas and ideals of comfort were expressed in and through the home; how these changed over time and space, and whether it is possible to identify a European conceptualisation of home and comfort

Provisional programme


Thursday 5th October

10.00-11.00   Registration and coffee
11.10-12.00   Keynote 1: ‘Title TBC’, Hannah Barker, University of Manchester
12.00-13.15   Panel 1: Family, sociability and the emotions of comfort

  • Emotional labour and the household in 17th and 18th century England – Dominic Birch, King’s College, London
  • Samuel Pepys, comfort and social accounting – Jamie Graves, University of Sheffield
  • Middle-class fathers, sons and domestic comfort in Victorian England – Laura Ugolini, University of Wolverhampton

13.15-14.10   Lunch
14.10-15.50   Panel 2: Modern, convenient and efficient houses

  • Masters and servants in the 18th century: parallel worlds? – Aurélien Davrius, Paris-Malaquais
  • Powdering rooms and water closets: marketing home comforts in Georgian Dublin – Conor Lucey, University College Dublin
  • Modern comforts and medieval décor: the Gothic revival home in the UK and France – Alizée Cordes, Université Clermont-Auvergne
  • The clientele of Dauvergne’s agency: search for amenities ad yearning for modernity in the Indre in the late 19th century – Olivier Prisset, Université Francois-Rabelais, Tours

15.50-16.15   Tea/coffee
16.15-17.30   Panel 3: Making a home from Home

  • Comfort, domesticity and social display on the Netherlandish Grand Tour, 1585-1750 – Gerrit Verhoeven, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Comfort in the college: wallpaper and the student room as a domestic haven in 19th-century Cambridge, Serena Dyer, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
  • Morale, morality, fashion and subversion: the home comforts of the late Victorian Barracks – Rowena Willard-Wright, English Heritage

17.30-18.00   The comfort of (animal) thingsJulie-Marie Strange, University of Manchester

Friday 6th October

9.00-9.50       Keynote 1: Northern comfort and discomfort: distribution of spaces and display of objects in Swedish country houses, c.1740–1800, Johanna Ilmakunnas, University of Turku
9.50-10.40     Panel 4: Singular comforts: bachelor homes

  • “What a dislocation of comfort is comprised in that word moving”: comfort disrupted in the domestic and emotional life of an 18th-century Bachelor – Helen Metcalfe, University of Manchester
  • Comfort compromised? The domestic lies of Finnish bachelors at the turn of the 20th century – Laika Nevalainen, European University Institute

10.40-11.00   Tea/Coffee
11.00-12.40   Panel 5: Technologies of comfort: heat, plumbing and light

  •  The invention of thermal comfort in 18th century France – Olivier Jandot, Université d’Artois
  • Technique, form and comfort: John Soane, a pioneer – Diego Bocchini, M. Beatrice Bettazzi and Giovanni Mochi, Università degli Studi di Bologna
  • Comfort or prestige? The bath cabinets in 17th and 18th century Parisian architecture – Ronan Bouttier, Paris-Sorbonne University
  • Where fairies seem to superintend … the breakthrough of comfort in 19th-century Antwerp homes – Britt Denis, Universiteit Antwerpen

12.40-13.40   Lunch
13.40-15.20   Panel 6: Ideal homes? Furnishing for comfort

  • Furnishing middling sort London homes in the 17th and 18th centuries – Eleanor John, Geffrye Museum
  • The ideal home, 1737: the toy or baby house as a place of retreat – Patricia Ferguson, British Museum and National Trust Advisor
  • “Sophas in abundance”: from inconvenience to comfort at Chiswick House – Esmé Whittaker, English Heritage
  • Pleasing the new wife: creating female comfort in a Hungarian country house – Kristof Fatsar, Writtle University College

15.20-15.40   Last words on comfort