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History Colonial Period (1600-1775)

The Invention of Comfort

Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America

by (author) John E. Crowley

Johns Hopkins University Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2003
Colonial Period (1600-1775), History & Criticism, Great Britain
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2003
    List Price

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How did our modern ideas of physical well-being originate? As John Crowley demonstrates in The Invention of Comfort, changes in sensible technology owed a great deal to fashion-conscious elites discovering discomfort in surroundings they earlier had felt to be satisfactory.

Written in an engaging style that will appeal to historians and material culture specialists as well as to general readers, this pathbreaking work brings together such disparate topics of analysis as climate, fire, food, clothing, the senses, and anxiety—especially about the night.

About the author

John E. Crowley is the George Munro Professor of History at Dalhousie University. He is currently studying the creation of a global landscape in British visual culture c. 1750–1820.

John E. Crowley's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The Invention of Comfort is an important and thought-provoking book that challenges our understanding of why people live that way they do."

New England Quarterly

"This is a powerful book, full of startling information and valuable insights."

American Historical Review

"Crowley invites his readers to follow him upon an engaging and meticulously detailed tour of the living spaces of English people."

H-Albion, H-Net Reviews

"A comprehensive and tight study... a valuable contribution to the field, [and] one that is enjoyable to read."

English Historical Review

"Riveting... A solid contribution to the literature on the cultural impact of gentility, refinement, and the 'baubles of Britain' in England and its colonial possessions."

Journal of American History

"Good books cross lines drawn in the sand by others. Terrific books scatter the sand and redraw the lines. John E. Crowley's The Invention of Comfort is one of the latter... A masterful and sweeping interpretation of material culture evidence that asks important historical questions."

Journal of Social History

"This is a grand panorama that stretches from medieval times through the antebellum years and covers a geographic area from England to the West Indies and then some. Crowley makes a successful case for the 'invention' of comfort and especially for the cultural influences on that process."

Technology and Culture

"The sheer range of evidence, the interweaving of themes, and the overall strength of the argument mean [this] is an ideal book for specialists and students alike."

Journal of Design History

"Crowley provides a masterly search and survey that no historian of material culture should miss, and every curious reader should consider."

Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter