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Comfort in English and Swedish country houses, c.1760-1820

Stobart, Jon and Prytz, C (2018) Comfort in English and Swedish country houses, c.1760-1820. Social History, 43 (2). pp. 234-258. ISSN 0307-1022

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Abstract

Comfort as an idea and ideal has attracted growing interest, especially in an Anglo-American context. Much of the discussion has centred either on improvements in physical comfort, not least through new technologies, or on emotional comfort and the social construction of the home. This paper brings together these ideas in a comparative analysis of English and Swedish landowners. It draws on a range of correspondence to uncover more about the ways in which members of the elite themselves conceived and achieved comfort in very different geographical, economic and cultural contexts. Whilst ‘English comfort’ became widespread as an idealisation of elite lifestyles by the early nineteenth century, both in Sweden and elsewhere, we argue that many of its social and physical imperatives were commonplace much earlier. This involved shared concerns with warmth and airiness, and the ways in which these were linked to health and wellbeing, but also with the construction of appropriate social settings. And yet it was the emotional and non-material dimensions of comfort that dominated the correspondence in both countries: a concern with family and with home as a place defined by relationships with people rather than things.

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