Elizabeth Hardwick's material negotiations

Jessica Malay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Elizabeth Hardwick Countess of Shrewsbury’s most impressive material legacy is Hardwick New Hall, while the ruins of the adjacent Hardwick Old Hall and evidence regarding the Elizabethan Chatsworth suggest that Elizabeth was well aware of the way in which one could exercise agency in ones community through the accumulation and control of objects. Throughout her life she engaged in a number of strategies to secure authority through her use of objects. Once obtained she communicated and reinforced this authority through objects. She often engaged in a material response to crises in her life and these responses in turn illuminate underlying networks of associations sustained through objects. This is most apparent in the ultimate human crises, death. Elizabeth Hardwick’s will exposes the relationships through which her communities formed, and her attempt to secure a continued authoritative presence in these beyond the grave. Death, as Bill Brown notes, provides objects with a hyper-presence that can reveal the social and psychological dynamics between human beings. This essay will draw upon Brown’s work on the dynamics inherent in the relationship between human beings and objects, as well as Bruno Latour’s theories of objects as actors in the formation of networks through which communities are created and sustained. The primary sources for this analysis are rich in both textual and material form and this essay will draw from Elizabeth Hardwick’s letters, her will and the wills of her circle, as well as the many objects associated with her that remain in existence today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBess of Hardwick New Perspectives
EditorsLisa Hopkins
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781526101297
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


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