Design Reform in Britain: From Pugin to Mackintosh


Spring 2015


5th Floor Classroom


Paul Stirton

Fired by a concern that British exports were suffering in the international market, the British Government launched a campaign in the 1830s to improve the quality and design of manufactured goods. This began a debate that touched all aspects of British life for the next century, embracing issues of politics, religion, morality and health, as well as questions of design and craftsmanship. This course will examine the views of some of the leading participants in this debate: A.W.N. Pugin, Owen Jones, Henry Cole, John Ruskin, Christopher Dresser, E.W. Godwin, William Morris, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Themes to be addressed will include design education, the Gothic Revival, International Exhibitions, the Aesthetic Movement, the Arts and Crafts Movement, the ‘New Art’ and the Glasgow Style. Design Reform has come to dominate histories of nineteenth and early twentieth-century design. One of the aims of the course, however, will be to question the role of theorists in shaping popular taste and to assess the extent to which “reform values” reflect only a partial (if influential) view of British design in the period. 3 credits.