Find a book

A Book a Month

We can send a book a month for six or twelve months - the perfect gift. More »

Café Music

Listen to our album of Café Music while browsing the site. More »

24 April 2017

a peasant family at meal time jan steen

A reading of Judith Flanders’s The Making of Home inspires the pictures on the Post this week. It ‘views the making of “home” from the vantage point of historical anthropology, looking at myths and rituals, marriage practices and the material fashioning of houses as homes’ (here): in essence it describes the change from home being a place of work to it being ‘a cosy respite from an aggressive world.’ For nearly everyone in the C17th the house was the former. Then things changed. ‘In New York City in 1800, less than 5% of men had a workplace outside the house; by 1820, it was 25%, and by 1840, it was 70%.’ This is absolutely fascinating since most of us, seeing schools empty for two-thirds of the year (if you include holidays, weekends, evenings and nights) and offices ditto think it a completely mad system: our world could be transformed if we did not have this rigid distinction between school/office and home. This is of especial interest to us at Persephone Books because we try to make the shop a pleasant place to be, indeed ‘homely’, and we could easily sleep at the back and have a kitchen. But planning laws, and convention, abhors this. Jan Steen’s A Peasant Family at Mealtime is 1665. Only the man of the household has a seat, the rest of the family apparently eat standing up.

Back to top