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240 × 156 × 20 mm
208 pages
118 illustrations, 65 in colour
16 Oct 2017

Refrigerator The Story of Cool in the Kitchen Helen Peavitt

Humans have been preserving food for millennia, but the refrigerator is a relatively new addition to our homes. Just before the Second World War, only 3 per cent of British households had one. In the interim years the fridge has become accepted as a taken-for-granted necessity blending into the household environment – background noise in the general hum of the kitchen. This book explores the history of refrigeration and how the fridge has become an essential appliance in our homes today.

Refrigeration technologies – essentially a completely new method of preserving and transporting all manner of perishable goods – had a profound impact on society from the nineteenth century onwards. Helen Peavitt leads us through the rooms, cabinets and boxes used to keep food, drink and other substances cool, their prime refrigerating function driven by mechanical means or, in earlier times, ice. The story of the refrigerator encompasses tales of scientific discovery, applied technology, power and steam engines; ice harvesting; industrial design and production; popular culture and taste; public health and hygiene; changing climate; technological aversion, danger and the odd dalliance with environmental catastrophe.

The book also explores the advertising and marketing of domestic fridges, and the ways patterns of food consumption have changed over the decades thanks to home refrigeration. Today our domestic refrigerators are food hubs: the nexus from which we plan our meals, store foods and focus our eating habits. Strikingly illustrated, Refrigerator: The Story of Cool in the Kitchen is an informative and often entertaining history of an object that has changed the way we eat and live.

Published in association with the Science Museum, London.

‘An important book – a masterful study that is both fascinating and entertaining about the every-day appliance that shaped, more than any other, the way we live and eat.’ — Claudia Roden, food writer

‘Peavitt’s primary interest is in the wide-ranging effects of refrigeration, and that is the great strength of the book . . . an important contribution to the general history of refrigeration.’ — Technology and Culture

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Helen Peavitt is curator of Consumer Technology at the Science Museum, London.


1 The Iceman Cometh

2 The Birth of Cool

3 Domesticating Cold

4 Refrigerator Dreams

5 Anatomy of the Refrigerator

6 A Culinary Revolution

7 ‘Is there Health in your Refrigerator?’

8 Refrigerated World


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Photo Acknowledgements