The Wedding Present: Domestic Life Beyond Consumption

Louise Purbrick

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authored


Purbrick’s research has been focused on detailed analysis of the socio-cultural contexts of a variety of historical phenomena. This text studies the meanings of objects created, sustained or altered through the practices of everyday domesticity in Britain since 1945. Such practices, the subject of analysis across a range of fields and disciplines (material culture studies and anthropology, cultural studies and sociology as well as design history), are usually placed under the rubric ‘consumption’. The Wedding Present, however, questions this overarching explanatory framework, challenging orthodox accounts of the relationship between consumption and individual identity. Rather than focusing upon personal selections made at the point of purchase, it examines the objects imposed upon people and how these are preserved or abandoned in ways that develop social and familial relationships rather than an individual self. At its centre is an analysis of the gift, which contributes to the theorisation of the act of exchange, a particular concern within anthropology, and an understanding of the construction of the ‘home’, a cross-disciplinary project. The Wedding Present is an ethnography, a case study drawn from the Contemporary Mass-Observation Project comprising detailed responses to a ‘directive’ entitled Giving and Receiving Presents collected in 1998 analysed over a period of eight years. The dominant, often overlooked, methodologies underpinning consumption studies are debated in the text, which also sets out an argument for much closer critical attention to be paid to method and for furthering comparative approaches. The text provides a critical appraisal of the developing field of material culture and consumption studies. In completing The Wedding Present, between October 2002 and June 2003, Purbrick was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Board through its Research Leave Scheme. It has been so far cited by Laurie Taylor, ‘Thinking Allowed', BBC Radio 4, 14 February 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages197
ISBN (Print)0-7546-4472-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Social Cultural, Domesticity in Britain, Consumption,


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