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New book: Country Houses: Material Culture and Consumption
J. Stobart and A. Hann (eds) Country House: Material Culture and Consumption(2016)
The country house has long been recognised as a symbol of elite power – a showpiece demonstrating the wealth and ambition of its owner, but also their taste and discernment. Ownership of a country house distinguished the landed classes from the rest of society and signalled an individual’s arrival amongst a privileged elite. Yet, as the contributions to this book amply demonstrate, the country house in Britain and elsewhere in Europe was much more than this; it was a lived and living space, populated by family, visitors and servants. This formed the context in which decisions were made about what to buy, what to keep and what could be discarded; about what taste comprised and how it would be balanced against financial constraints or the imperatives of pedigree and heritance.
In this collection, consumption is thus explored as an active and on-going process that involved the mundane as well as the magnificent. It drew the country house into complex and overlapping networks of supply that stretched from the local to the international. Material culture and elite identity were shaped by a cosmopolitan mixture of the everyday, the European and the exotic; food from the kitchen garden was served à la Française from Chinese porcelain.