The Twinkling of a Bedstaff: Recovering the Social Life of English Beds 1500-1700

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Abstract

This article investigates the social history of the bed in England 1500–1700. It proposes an approach that uses legal records to recover the emotional resonances and social practices of an object in its context. The legal records are particularly useful for their use of narrative: their reliance on storytelling, it is argued, is not incidental but central for their importance as a source. Beds were sociable places, often shared: the crimes of illicit sex, infanticide, and theft encouraged witnesses to remember and recount the words and deeds of a shared bed in detail. An attention to these kinds of narratives both restores some of the emotional and social resonance of the material object, and adds depth and complexity to existing narratives of the transformation of the domestic sphere in this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-304
JournalHome cultures
Volume11
Issue number3
Early online date21 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2015

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