My research project, entitled ‘Science in the Kitchen in Victorian England’, is looking at the English middle-class home and what can be learnt about contemporary understandings of science from its analysis.The kitchen can be used as an entry point into understanding the ways in which scientific knowledge is disseminated and who possessed it.
Analysis will focus primarily on the period 1870 to 1914. In this period, the middle classes were active participants in scientific culture, as well as consumers of the new kitchen technologies which were proliferating at this time. The study will explore how scientific ideas were represented in contemporary popular culture, as well as how they shaped the everyday lives of historical actors, through their daily activities and objects.
The kitchen, ‘the great laboratory of every household‘ according to Mrs Beeton, is the chosen site of analysis because of the profusion of scientific processes that are necessarily undertaken there. I will use the kitchen to investigate how people perceived science, through their utensils, their recipes and their ingredients. I hope to draw together the recent wave of interest in the study of material culture, scholarly attention on popular science, and cultural geography.
This project will draw on a wide range of primary source material, including domestic advice literature, advertisements, household inventories, biographies and recipe books. Furthermore, I aim to draw upon the collections of domestic technologies from museums across London.