From Catherine Beecher to Martha Stewart : a Cultural History of Domestic Advice (review)

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Advice literature, such as etiquette, has been shown to be a useful cultural discourse for understanding social interaction and especially international relations. The social theorist Norbert Elias who worked variously in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Ghana, developed in The Civilizing Process a theory of social interdependence as being exemplified in and served by changing codes of etiquette and manners. His work has formed the basis of recent Eliasian studies such as that of Jorge Arditi, whose Genealogy of Etiquette takes a long view of changes in the social infrastructure of Europe akin to the period addressed by Elias, and Cas Wouters, who has made comparative studies of etiquette in the Netherlands, France, Britain and the UK in the twentieth century (1). Historical studies of the importance of etiquette and manners in securing and maintaining social relations have concentrated on the nineteenth century, when European codes of conduct reached a flamboyant apogee, and during which specifically American manners are deemed to have flowered (2). Notable among these works is that of Arthur Schlesinger Snr, who in 1946 published Learning How to Behave in order to identify the development of specifically American manners beginning with the importation of English and French advice books to assist the pilgrim fathers, through the adaptation of those European models for consumption in the new world and the publication of the first specifically American conduct texts, and ending with an optimistic call for etiquette as a lingua franca for improving international relations in the immediate post-war period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-117
JournalJournal of Transatlantic Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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