Life in the English Country House

Life in the English Country House : A Social and Architectural History

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This best-selling book is a beautifully illustrated history of the English country house from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. In it, renowned architectural historian Mark Girouard presents a rare and revealing glimpse of the English upper classes-their public and personal lives, their servants, and their homes. "A deeply important book, one of the most interesting contributions to architectural history."-J. H. Plumb, The New York Review of Books "A survey of country houses through the past five centuries, from a broad range of materials: family archives, literature, plans and photographs...The book itself is a physical artifact of surpassing beauty which could fit on the grandest table in the houses it describes."-David Hackett Fischer, The New Republic "Informative, balanced, knowledgeable, and witty."-The New Yorker "This enthralling and immensely informative book...tells with wit, scholarship, and lucidity how the country house evolved to meet the needs and reflect the social attitudes of the times."-Philip Ziegler, The Times "One of those very useful and very enjoyable books that the learned can seldom write, and the entertaining seldom achieve-clear, detailed, and witty."-Angus Wilson, The Observer Winner of the 1978 Duff Cooper Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith & Son Annual Literary Award for more

Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 194 x 252 x 20mm | 1,038.72g
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 204 b-w + 32 color illus.
  • 0300058705
  • 9780300058703
  • 301,661

About Mark Girouard

Mark Girouard is one of Britain's leading architectural historians. His books include The English Town, Cities and People, The Victorian Country House, The Return to Camelot, Robert Smythson and the Elizabethan Country House, Victorian Pubs, Sweetness and Light, and Town and more

Review Text

Architectural historian Mark Girouard (The Victorian Country House, Sweetness and Light: The "Queen Anne" Movement) has opened up an absorbing and highly promising field of study by looking into the social arrangements that shaped the country house from the Middle Ages onward. As he notes in a brief but far-reaching introduction, land meant tenants (first as soldiers, then as political supporters) plus their rents, and thus represented, for many centuries, "the only sure basis of power." Landed estates introduced town customs and culture to the countryside until, in the 19th century, town and country parted ways: the landed gentry became the agricultural party, as opposed to the town-dwelling middle classes. At the same time, the multi-class medieval country household - eating in one great hall - split into higher and lower orders rigorously separated by a green baize door. The permutations of this change, minutely traced and sumptuously illustrated, include the tower mystique which long outlasted any need for protection; the evolution equally of libraries and galleries and sanitary facilities; the hierarchical implications of the formal house, suited to absolute monarchy, and the substitution of "a series of communal rooms for entertaining" with the appearance of 18th-century "polite society." Then, with the popularity (and profitability) of agricultural "improvement" and the advent of turnpikes and railroads, country squires could enjoy nature without being imprisoned by it. The house sank into the ground, opened up to the outdoors, and sprawled asymmetrically: "to make a house lopsided became a positively meritorious gesture, an escape from artificiality." A thoroughly intelligent and engaging book. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

183 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 39% (72)
4 40% (74)
3 19% (35)
2 1% (2)
1 0% (0)
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