Enfilade

New Book | The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives

Posted in books by Editor on March 7, 2020

The book appeared last summer in hardback and is already sold out; a paperback is scheduled for release in the coming months from Yale UP.

Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux, The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660–1900 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 264 pages, ISBN: 978-0300253740 (paperback), $25.

Pencils, a sketchbook, cake, yards of stolen ribbon, thimbles, snuff boxes, a picture of a lover, two live ducks: these are just some of the fascinating things carried by women and girls in their tie-on pockets, an essential accessory throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

This first book-length study of the tie-on pocket combines materiality and gender to provide new insight into the social history of women’s everyday lives—from duchesses and country gentry to prostitutes and washerwomen—and explore their consumption practices, work, sociability, mobility, privacy, and identity. The authors draw on an unprecedented study of surviving pockets in museums and private collections to identify their materials, techniques, and decoration; their use is investigated through sources as diverse as criminal trials, letters, diaries, inventories, novels, and advertisements. Richly illustrated with paintings, satirical prints, and photographs of artifacts in detail, this innovative book reveals the unexpected story of these deeply evocative and personal objects.

Barbara Burman is an independent scholar, and Ariane Fennetaux is associate professor of 18th-century British history at the Université Paris Diderot.

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