Conference Blog


Conference Responses & Reflections

Read the real time responses to the ‘Home: new histories of living’ conference by scrolling through our Twitter Moment. See the reactions, conversations and pictures that captured the day, as well as links to special learning tools created by the IHR for the event.


Special Issue of Reviews in History: Histories of Domesticity

This special issue, featuring reviews of books on the theme of domesticity and domestic living, coincides with the IHR’s 2018 Winter Conference: ‘Home: new histories of living’ (8-9 Feb 2018). The reviews of these 18 books appeared between 1999 and 2017. They provide historical studies of among other themes, architectural design, family life, housing policy, gender, possessions, neighbourliness, collective living, kitchens and domestic animals. Among the domestic experiences covered are those of early modern Holland, Georgian London, enlightenment Edinburgh, Weimar Munich, Soviet Moscow and post-war Harlem. Read more at Reviews in History.

Ernö Goldfinger and a visit to 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

As a survey of domestic experience, the IHR’s 2018 Winter Conference—‘Home: new histories of living’(8-9 February)—ranges widely in its locations and forms of historical dwellings. At the same time, individual properties stand out. These include No. 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, now one of London’s best-known modernist houses, which makes two appearances at the Conference and its follow-on events.

Interior of 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Interior of 2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Goldfinger in Hampstead

The work of the Budapest-born architect Ernö Goldfinger (1902-1987), Willow Road was from the outset a controversial design. Goldfinger’s critics—mindful of his training with Le Corbusier—feared the imposition of an angular concrete block in a part of London celebrated more for its fine Georgian architecture and, with the Heath, proximity to largely untamed countryside.

Goldfinger had initially sought to erect a modernist block of flats on the site, but reverted to three residential properties when permission for his larger scheme was refused. Leading critics of his revised project included the conservationist and future MP for Hampstead, Henry Brooke; and the author Ian Fleming whose opposition to Ernö’s architectural tastes resulted, it’s said, in his use of ‘Goldfinger’ as the name for one of 007’s most megalomaniacal villains.

In response, the architect justified his design for Willow Road in terms of its dominant use of brick, relative unobtrusiveness, and a profile no more angular than the much-loved surrounding terraces. In championing modernism Goldfinger was also supported by Hampstead’s avant-garde for whom structures such as Wells Coates’ Isokon Building demonstrated the potential of new residential forms.

Completed in 1939, Nos 1-3 Willow Road are now as much a feature of Hampstead domestic architecture as the neighbouring Georgian cottages. No. 2 Willow Road, the largest of the three properties, was taken by Goldfinger and remained a family home until the architect’s death there in September 1987. Acquired by the National Trust in 1993, the house been open for public viewings since 1996.

Though relatively modest in scale, Nos. 1-3 Willow Road established Goldfinger’s reputation as a coming, and controversial, architect. Denied the opportunity to build at scale and in concrete in pre-war Hampstead, Goldfinger’s Corbusian training was evident in his later expeditions in Brutalism—Balfron Tower, in Poplar, and Trellick Tower in Kensal Town. Today both towers and Nos. 1-3 Willow Road are Grade II* listed.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Willow Road and the IHR Winter Conference

Willow Road’s first appearance at the IHR’s Winter Conference comes on Thursday 8 February in the first of two ‘brown bag’ lunchtime slots. Thursday’s session sees short talks from three curators and archivists who’ll each tell the ‘biography’ or life story of a notable domestic object drawn from his or her collection.

From 2 Willow Road, the house steward Leigh Sneade will bring and speak about an artefact in Goldfinger’s collection, in part to highlight broader themes of mid-century modernism. Leigh will also introduce us to the interior spaces in which Ernö and Ursula Goldfinger lived and entertained, and which also became home to a significant art collection by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp.

1-3 Willow Road, Hampstead, London

Our second Goldfinger event of the Winter Conference takes place on Saturday 10 March, and gives delegates the chance to explore 2 Willow Road in greater detail. This takes the form of a guided tour of the house, provided by its National Trust curators, and coming soon after the Willow Road’s reopening following renovation work for the 2018 season. Further details of how to enroll for the 10 March house tour will be made available at the Winter Conference in early February, and then on the IHR website.

Introducing ‘Home: new histories of living’ –
the IHR’s 2018 Winter Conference

The IHR’s forthcoming Winter Conference, to be held on 8-9 February 2018, takes as its theme Home: New Histories of Living.

The title reflects the event’s two main aims: to bring together those working on past domesticities (and above all the experiences of home life); and to focus on new and innovative research that explores how the home has been thought about, utilized and lived in. This focus on research and methodological enquiry will, we hope, become an important strand in future IHR events and conferences—in line with the Institute’s standing as a national centre for training in established and emerging forms of historical research.

“Interior of a home” by Minard, William E., licensed under CC0 1.0

Panel sessions
Over two days in February 2018, ‘New Histories of Living’ will address four interrelated subject areas of interest to historians of domestic life. Each panel will comprise three papers relating to the principal theme, interconnected and set in context by a specialist convenor. Panels will bring together scholars whose work provides insights both into historical domestic experiences and historians’ approaches to these pasts.

Day One begins with ‘Reconstructions: imagining domestic experience’—a survey of new ways to recreate medieval and early modern interiors, convened by Catherine Richardson (University of Kent). Papers in this session consider digital and physical recreations of interiors, and historical perceptions of the use of domestic space.

The second panel of the day addresses the topic of ‘Rooms: furnishing the idiosyncrasies of private life’. Under the guidance of Sonia Solicari, director The Geffrye-Museum of the Home, London, this session considers how historians tackle the changing forms and uses of spaces to accommodate family life for cooking, resting and entertaining. Particular attention will be given in this session to kitchens and bedchambers.

Day Two begins with the ‘Home-work: reframing gendered domesticity’ panel, convened by Lynne Walker (IHR), in which speakers will survey male and female domestic environments—including Victorian model dwellings for women and residences for single men in early 20th-century Finland.

Our fourth panel, ‘Dream homes: alternative futures for residential experience’, is convened by the architectural historian Elizabeth Darling (Oxford Brookes University). This session considers the history of living in the ‘homes of tomorrow’. Subjects covered include the ‘municipal dreams’ of post-war council housing, the idealism of suburbia, and queer homes beyond London from the 1960s.

Full details and abstracts of the 12 papers are available in the Winter Conference programme.

“Home” by Rene Schlegel, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Plenary lectures
Alongside the themed panels, the Conference offers four plenary lectures. Thursday’s lectures will be given by the architectural historian and journalist, Owen Hatherley, who will speak on ‘A social democratic microcosm: St Mary’s Estate, Woolnoth’, and Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck) on ‘House and home in early modern London’. Friday’s plenaries include lectures by Jane Hamlett (Royal Holloway, University of London) on ‘Finding Home in Institutions in Victorian and Edwardian England’, and by the art historian and BBC presenter Dan Cruickshank.

Details and abstracts of the plenary lectures are available in the Winter Conference programme.

Other activities: 3D printing, Fortnum’s and #myhistoryshelfies
In addition to the main programme, ‘Home: new histories of living’ offers ancillary events on the topic of research practices and methods. Two brown-bag lunchtime talks will consider the value of ‘object biographies’ for understanding domestic interiors (Thursday 8th), and provide an introduction to 3D technology for imaging and printing household artefacts (Friday 9th).

During February the Institute will host an exhibition of items from the archive of the celebrated London retailer, Fortnum and Mason. Covering the period 1820 to 1980, the display charts changing tastes in household consumption and design.

In association with The Geffrye-Museum of the Home, we’re also asking delegates to take part in our #myhistoryshelfie competition: send us a photo of a shelf or mantelpiece in your home, and tell us the historical and personal significance of one or two notable objects. We’ll print and display our favourite #myhistoryshelfies during the Winter Conference, and there’ll be a prize for the very best.

Ernö Goldfinger’s house and the V&A for Early Career Researchers
Following the Conference, we have two further events for delegates and others. On Saturday 10 March there’ll be a guided tour of 2 Willow Road, Hampstead—the 1930s home of the modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger—which is now owned by the National Trust. Details of the event, and how to book, will be available at the Winter Conference.

On Wednesday 2 May 2018, the IHR and Victoria and Albert Museum will host a day workshop for Early Career Researchers (MA and doctoral students, and recently completed PhDs). The morning session, held at the Institute, will allow ECRs to discuss their work and research methods with subject specialists. In the afternoon we’ll visit the Museum for a guided tour of the V&A’s furniture gallery with its curator Nick Humphreys. Information on how to book will again be provided at the Winter Conference, and then on the IHR website.

Registration for ‘Home: new histories of living’ is now open.