The material consumptive: Domesticating the tuberculosis patient in Edwardian England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The proliferation of general and specialist hospitals, lunatic asylums, and workhouse infirmaries in the nineteenth century challenged the popular perception of the home as a suitable site of health care. Amidst the emergence of yet another type of institution, the tuberculosis sanatorium, tuberculosis control in the Edwardian period was re-sited and re-scaled to accommodate what might be termed a 'preventive therapy' of domestic space. Three interlinked perspectives demonstrate why and how this happened. First, I explore the role of the national and local state in legitimating domestic space as a scale and a site for the regulation of tuberculosis patients and prevention of the disease. Second, I investigate how tuberculosis self-help manuals promoted a technology of the self that was founded largely on the principles of sanatorium therapy but was necessarily reconfigured to reflect the social relations of domestic space. Third, I assess the marketing of consumer goods to the domiciled tuberculosis sufferer through the pages of the British Journal of Tuberculosis. It is suggested that a common tubercular 'language' of material consumption was fashioned in order to normalise the accumulation of possessions for use in the home. These arguments are situated in relation to recent historical research on material culture and identity at the turn of the twentieth century, which has stressed the cultivation of individuality and that the right sort of possessions appropriately arranged in domestic space signified well-regulated morality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-166
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Consumption
  • Disinfection
  • Domestic space
  • Home
  • Preventive therapy
  • Sanatorium
  • Self-help
  • Sheffield
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Archaeology


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