The house or home as a person’s castle is a common way to looking at a property that belongs to a family or individual. The image conjures up thoughts of wealth and status both of which are common themes in histories of the home. Another aspect of this allusion that is less considered by historians is the castle as a fortification – thus the home as a secure place to live and to protect property. This is the subject that Sara Pennell looks at for the Histories of Home seminar. Pennell considers the role of chattel distress (meaning movable private property rather than real estate that is seized for the satisfaction of a demand such as debt) as a way into the subject of home security.
Beginning with a general background on theories concerning the meanings of home, largely built upon the work of Karen Harvey (who wrote conceptually on the subject in 2009) Pennell examines the often-ignored area of security via the evidence in various legal collections including the Old Bailey and through legal codes in the American 4th Amendment. Where property has been examined it is often focused around the elite and ignores the fact that for most people property came down to their furniture and objects within the home. Pennell wishes to even out the examination of this topic therefore, by tackling property owned by those of lower status.