No one writes about history like Judith Flanders. Reading her work (The Victorian City, Inside the Victorian Home) is like going back in time with an expert guide at your side.
In her new book, The Making of Home, Flanders ventures beyond one city or time period to explore the political, religious, economic and social factors that led to the notions of home that still influence us today. Make no mistake—this is not a history of decoration or architecture. As Flanders puts it, “It is not the style of chair that is my primary concern, but how people sat on it.”
While such a broad topic might be dry in the hands of a lesser writer, Flanders boasts an astounding ability to seamlessly weave facts and ideas. In her discussion of the evolution of lighting inside and outside houses, we’re treated to Robert Louis Stevenson’s comments on gas street lamps: “The city-folk had stars of their own; biddable domesticated stars.” Like those stars, every page of this remarkable book sparkles with insights.
If you’re left curious to know more about, say, the impact of technology on kitchen design and women’s lives, The Making of Home includes extensive notes and an 18-page bibliography.
As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” In The Making of Home, Flanders helps us appreciate how much there is to know about something we care about so deeply.