The invisible chamber pot: ‘hidden’ material culture in the home 1500-1700

Thursday 28 June 2018


The course

This day explores categories of domestic decorations and household goods that tend not to feature in historical documents, such as inventories. We will introduce the rich physical evidence for the ubiquitous trends in interior decoration and furnishings – such as wall paintings, and other fixed decorations, ceramics and cheap print – and examine why these material forms are largely absent from lists of household goods.

The tutors

Tara Hamling is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Birmingham. Trained as an art historian, she is author of numerous publications on the visual and material culture of early modern Britain, with particular interest in the cultural impact of the reformation and the relationship between art and piety in the home. She has held a number of prestigious awards and fellowships including a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Sussex (2003-2006) and a RCUK/Roberts Research Fellowship on joining Birmingham in 2007. In 2010 she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for achievement in outstanding research which has attracted international recognition. She is author of Decorating the Godly Household: Religious Art in Post-Reformation Britain (Yale, 2010), and editor with Catherine Richardson and David Gaimster of The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe (2016), with Catherine Richardson, Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture (Ashgate 2010) and, with Richard L. Williams, Art Re-formed: Reassessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts.

Catherine Richardson is Professor of Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. She joined Kent in 2007 from the University of Birmingham, where she was Lecturer in English and History and Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute. Reflecting her multi-disciplinary training (art school, followed by degrees in English and Medieval and Early Modern Studies), she uses literary and dramatic texts alongside quantitative and qualitative research into historical documents such as court depositions and probate materials to study the history and representation of early modern material culture, arguing for the importance of literary skills of textual analysis in the development of material culture studies. She is author of Domestic Life and Domestic Tragedy in Early Modern England: The material life of the household (Manchester, 2006) and Shakespeare and Material Culture (OUP, 2011), and editor of Clothing Culture 1350-1650 (Ashgate, 2004), with Tara Hamling, Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings (Ashgate, 2010) and with Hamling and David Gaimster, The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe (2016). Between 2011-14 she and Tara Hamling ran an AHRC Research Network on ‘Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior 1500-1700, the case of decorative textiles’.

Participant information

You may wish to bring a notepad or paper.

Fee and refreshments

£75 per person, to include tuition, teas and coffees. Please let the Museum know in advance if you have any special dietary requirements.


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