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January 22, 2003
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v2.1 Reference

The Invention of Comfort

Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America

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.


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

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

- Eugen Weber - Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter

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

- Emma Hart - English Historical Review

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.

- Helen Clifford - Journal of Design History

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

- Marie Morgan - New England Quarterly

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

- Rhys Isaac - American Historical Review

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.

- Molly W. Berger - Technology and Culture

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

- Natalie Zacek - H-Albion, H-Net Reviews

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.

- Ann Smart Martin - Journal of Social History


Every page offers interesting detail, worthwhile insights, and useful connections—the illustrations are a major contribution in themselves... It will be a standard reference work in material culture studies.

- Peter Charles HofferUniversity of Georgia, author of The Devil's Disciples and Law and People in Colonial America
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801873157 : the-invention-of-comfort-crowley
Paperback / softback
376 Pages
$26.95 USD

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