At Home With the Georgians
As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I have been researching the Georgian era for my latest work in progress. This research has taken different forms. I spent hours looking at pictures online of houses, costume, gardens, old maps, etc. I spent more hours poring over books, such as the one which recreates patterns and describes how people then would have sewn some actual surviving dresses from the time.
On Friday, I wanted a fascinating documentary called At Home With the Georgians. It was a three-hour presentation by Professor Amanda Vickery, who spent years reading old diaries and letters and rummaging through old buildings to understand how the increasing importance of their homes changed British society at all levels. At Home With the Georgians provided a unique perspective on some of the lesser known aspects of daily life, as told through the experiences of real people.
I found it to be full of interesting tidbits of historical trivia. For example, did you know about one third of upper class women then never married? The reason was simple, once Professor Vickery pointed it out. The women were expected to marry a man of their class, someone who had wealth and a nice home. There simply weren’t enough of these men to go around, so many women chose to remain single rather than be ostracized for marrying down.
And yet, while we assume it was the women who were so anxious to be married, men were equally eager. Not just for the obvious reasons of a wife and family, but also because having a home (and a wife to run it) was the ultimate proof that the man was now a mature, responsible citizen. In many areas of England, a man could not vote unless he was a homeowner.
For the servants, the only private place they had was the locking wooden box which held all of their possessions. Some maids even decorated the inside of their boxes with wallpaper, etc. This was the closest they would ever come to setting up or decorating their own homes.
I enjoy learning bits of history like this. It makes the time period seem more real, more three-dimensional. Perhaps this is why I spent eight hours watching a three-hour documentary, and probably many more hours than I truly needed looking at books and online sources. To me, history isn’t simply fun; it’s a glimpse into how our grandparents and our great-grandparents and our many-many-greats-grandparents lived. It’s a look at past events which still shape our current lives.
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