Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Deborah Cohen was educated at Harvard (BA) and Berkeley (Ph.D.).  She is Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University.  Her specialty is modern European history, with a focus on Britain.

Cohen’s research has been funded by the Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, the American Council of Learned Societies (Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars) and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

She is the author of three books:  The War Come Home (University of California Press, 2001), Household Gods:  The British and their Possessions (Yale, 2006), and Family Secrets, published in 2013 by Viking Penguin in the UK, Canada, Australia, India, and New Zealand and by Oxford University Press in the US. 

Press Reviews

Book of the Year -- The Sunday Times

Sunday, December 1, 2013
The Times [London]
James McConnachie

"Half the book feels like eavesdropping -- tales of illegitimate half-Indian children and 'bachelor uncles' -- the other half is a deeply considered argument about the changing relationship between privacy, secrecy and shame."

Reviewed by Richard Morrison

Saturday, October 17, 2009
The Times [London]
Richard Morrison

“[A] cracking social history”
Sometimes a book’s title belies its riches.  Deborah Cohen is ostensibly writing about Britain’s “love affair with the domestic interior” from the 1830s to the 1930s.  But her book isn’t only a chronicle of décor wars in the era when the British middle classes were the world’s most prosperous shoppers (rather than what we are now – the most incurable).  It’s also a cracking social history, all the more fascinating for approaching quintessential period figures such as Oscar Wilde or the Suffragettes through their furnishings – or their effect on other people’s.

How the British Discovered their House Style

Saturday, September 16, 2006
The Times [London]
Ben Macintyre

“[An] excellent new history of the British and their possessions... So much of what Cohen identifies in her insightful survey of Victorian and Edwardian consumerism seems to reflect upon our own age...”


At around midnight on a cold February evening last  year, 6,000 people converged on Edmonton, North London, for the opening of a new IKEA shop.  They jostled over the self-assembly bunk beds; they competed vigorously for the sofas; they snatched at the Mäkta global decorations and the Kvartil candle lanterns and the Brunkrissla pillowcases.  Then they stampeded.  Fights broke out.  Six people were injured and taken to hospital.