Physical comfort and emotional well-being are common expectations and aspirations across 21st-century Europe. This fellowship explores an important episode in the historical development of these cultural and social norms. The 18th century was a time when the wealthy, at least, had access to a growing range of goods, commodities and technologies, and were becoming increasingly aware of their individual identity. The research focuses on the changing relationship between physical and emotional comfort in the context of the country house, and explores a number of key questions about how the desire for comfort related to gender and life course, and to material objects and the growing specialisation of domestic spaces; how it was perceived through different senses and how it was juxtaposed with feelings of discomfort; and how it was conceived and experienced in two contrasting countries within Europe – places with very different societies, economies and climates.
The research draws on a wide range of archival sources and material objects, and engages with a variety of social and cultural theories and research methodologies: textual, statistical and artefactual. It is characterised by strong engagement with the heritage sector, through the provision of new interpretive frameworks and materials for selected historic houses, and with the public, who are invited to become actively involved as project associates and contribute to the analysis of objects and archives. Successfully completing of the project will involve knowledge transfer between the researcher and host institution, and will significantly develop the researcher’s career. It will produce a range of tangible outcomes, including academic publications, open access publications on dedicated web-pages, and public workshops and exhibitions, and will build sustainable networks of academics and professionals, thus enriching and integrating the ERA.
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