Physical comfort and emotional well-being are common expectations and aspirations across 21st-century Europe. This project, linked to a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship, explores an important episode in the historical development of these cultural and social norms.
It forms a new way of understanding the country house as a lived space and a home, and offers a new way for visitors to view and think about the houses they visit – one that focuses on experiences, relationships and emotions.
The project involves Dr Cristina Prytz (Marie-Curie Fellow) and Professor Jon Stobart, and focuses on the changing relationship between physical and emotional comfort in the 18th-century country house in England and Sweden. It explores how the desire for physical comfort and convenience was reflected in different and changing arrangements of rooms and deployments of new technologies. But we also focus on how the arrangement of furniture created a comfortable room and the everyday spending necessary to service and maintain a comfortable life. Comfort was also found through personal relationships with family and friends, and in the reassurance of familiar surroundings. It was embodied through consuming food and drink and avoiding harmful influences, from smoke to bugs. Exploring these various aspects of comfort in very different economic, social and climatic contexts reveals the common values, needs and desires of the European elite.