Proposal preview

Consumers and retailers in the countryside – Europe/North America, 18th to mid 20th century

The history of consumption is by now a well-established field – but one that has privileged certain spaces, time periods or questions and neglected others. Rural consumption (especially in the 19th century) remains relatively understudied, and this despite the fact a large proportion of Europeans and a majority of North Americans lived in rural areas until the early 20th century.
The papers in this session address the following questions:
1. Who distributed goods in the countryside during this time period and how?
2. What goods were distributed, how fast did new goods appear on rural markets, and how quickly were they adopted?
3. Who purchased what and what do those consumption patterns tell us about the meaning of goods among rural people?

Organizer(s)

  • Béatrice Craig University of Ottawa/department of history bcraig@uottawa.ca Canada
  • Jon Stobart Manchester Metropolitan University jstobart@mmu.ac.uk UK
  • Corinne Marache Department of History-University of Bordeaux-Montaigne corinne.marache@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr Fr
  • Galina Ulianova Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow galina.ulianova@gmail.com Russia

Session members

  • Béatrice Craig, University of Ottawa/department of history
  • Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Sarah Sarah, History/Johns Hopkins University
  • Görang Ulväng, economic history- University of Uppsala
  • Sandgren Fredrik, economic history- University of Uppsala
  • Ulianova Galina, Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Discussant(s)

  • Ellan F Spero MIT efs8@mit.edu

This panel has Call for Papers open.
If you are interested in participating, please contact the panel organizer(s) to submit a proposal.

  • Béatrice Craig , University of Ottawa/department of history, bcraig@uottawa.ca, Canada
  • Jon Stobart, Manchester Metropolitan University, jstobart@mmu.ac.uk, UK
  • Corinne Marache , Department of History-University of Bordeaux-Montaigne, corinne.marache@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr, Fr
  • Galina Ulianova, Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, galina.ulianova@gmail.com, Russia

Papers

Panel abstract

The history of consumption is by now a well-established field – but one that has privileged certain spaces, time periods or questions and neglected others. Rural consumption (especially in the 19th century) remains relatively understudied, and this despite the fact a large proportion of Europeans and a majority of North Americans lived in rural areas until the early 20th century. The papers in this session address the following questions: 1. Who distributed goods in the countryside during this time period and how? 2. What goods were distributed, how fast did new goods appear on rural markets, and how quickly were they adopted? 3. Who purchased what and what do those consumption patterns tell us about the meaning of goods among rural people?

1st half

Clothing the countryside: textiles and haberdashery in English village shops, c.1660-1720

Jon Stobart

Village shops remain the poor relation in studies of the history retailing, in Britain as elsewhere. When they are considered, it is often assumed that they were the archetype of the ‘pre-modern’ shop: dark and gloomy, and filled with a few essentials or the detritus of slow-moving stock. My paper offers a corrective to this stereotype, highlighting instead the rich and varied nature of the goods stocked by English village shopkeepers. Detailed analysis of a small number of inventories is used to illustrate how they were able to supply the range of textiles, haberdashery and other items necessary for the production of clothing. This challenges the assumed self-sufficiency of rural households and suggests that village shopkeepers were able to respond to and perhaps shape growing demand for clothing and other consumer goods.

Village shops remain the poor relation in studies of the history retailing, in Britain as elsewhere. When they are considered, it is often assumed that they were the archetype of the ‘pre-modern’ shop: dark and gloomy, and filled with a few essentials or the detritus of slow-moving stock. My paper offers a corrective to this stereotype, highlighting instead the rich and varied nature of the goods stocked by English village shopkeepers. Detailed analysis of a small number of inventories is used to illustrate how they were able to supply the range of textiles, haberdashery and other items necessary for the production of clothing. This challenges the assumed self-sufficiency of rural households and suggests that village shopkeepers were able to respond to and perhaps shape growing demand for clothing and other consumer goods.

Foot-soldiers of the Market Economy: Rural Retailers in Northern Sweden 1870-1890

Fredrik Sandgren

The northern part of Sweden, Norrland, became from the 1850s integrated in the national and international economy as commercial forestry expanded. As towns were relatively small and far apart a growing rural population came to rely on rural retailers for the distribution of goods. The majority of the rural retail businesses were general stores. A hierarchy developed between a few large retailers, often combining retail and wholesale, and a mass of small businesses. Large retail businesses came increasingly to be organised as partnerships. The majority of the deliveries came from wholesalers in the larger towns in Norrland, but contacts with southern Sweden were common. The coming of the railway in the 1880s increased the importance of wholesalers in Norrland. The social composition of customers reflected the social composition of the population in the region, while there were differences in consumer behaviour between social groups.

The northern part of Sweden, Norrland, became from the 1850s integrated in the national and international economy as commercial forestry expanded. As towns were relatively small and far apart a growing rural population came to rely on rural retailers for the distribution of goods. The majority of the rural retail businesses were general stores. A hierarchy developed between a few large retailers, often combining retail and wholesale, and a mass of small businesses. Large retail businesses came increasingly to be organised as partnerships. The majority of the deliveries came from wholesalers in the larger towns in Norrland, but contacts with southern Sweden were common. The coming of the railway in the 1880s increased the importance of wholesalers in Norrland. The social composition of customers reflected the social composition of the population in the region, while there were differences in consumer behaviour between social groups.

Material culture on Swedish manors. Possessions and purchases on a regulated market, 1730-1850.

Göran Ulväng

The aim of this paper is to discuss how manor owning families on the Swedish countryside acted on a market which went from being extremely regulated to a free trade market in the mid1800s. Increased population from the 1750s and onwards, an agrarian revolution and the integration in the global market increased the pressure on the trade regulation systems. The guild system was abolished in 1846 and a modern free trade system was introduced as late as 1864. The paper deals with questions about the possessions of the families as well as the consumption patterns, using probate inventories and private and household account books from 1730 to 1870. What kind of goods were purchased and from where and whom? Did noble and non-noble families acted in the same way, or were there any differences?

The aim of this paper is to discuss how manor owning families on the Swedish countryside acted on a market which went from being extremely regulated to a free trade market in the mid1800s. Increased population from the 1750s and onwards, an agrarian revolution and the integration in the global market increased the pressure on the trade regulation systems. The guild system was abolished in 1846 and a modern free trade system was introduced as late as 1864. The paper deals with questions about the possessions of the families as well as the consumption patterns, using probate inventories and private and household account books from 1730 to 1870. What kind of goods were purchased and from where and whom? Did noble and non-noble families acted in the same way, or were there any differences?

2nd half

Rural consumption in Russia in the 19th and early 20th century.

Galina Ulianova

This paper examines the structure of retail (flour, meat, tea, sugar, spices as so called 'colonial goods', wine, soap, haberdashery, etc.) and distribution of trading points in rural space of some districts of Moscow province, the location of shops and their ownership. It mainly uses the ‘Annual journals of general tax control’ (for the years 1890s through 1910s), compiled by tax inspectors who were the officers of the Fiscal Chamber and controlled rural shops, but also individual business records and court proceedings, It was stated that the owners were persons of all social ranks as nobles, merchants, peasants, meshchane (the petty tradesmen), militaries, wives and widows of clergymen (to whom themselves the participation in trade was forbidden). The ‘Annual Journals’ Registers of Traders’ information gives us a new knowledge on the matter of rural consumption and portrays shopkeepers and characterizes their commercial ties.

This paper examines the structure of retail (flour, meat, tea, sugar, spices as so called 'colonial goods', wine, soap, haberdashery, etc.) and distribution of trading points in rural space of some districts of Moscow province, the location of shops and their ownership. It mainly uses the ‘Annual journals of general tax control’ (for the years 1890s through 1910s), compiled by tax inspectors who were the officers of the Fiscal Chamber and controlled rural shops, but also individual business records and court proceedings, It was stated that the owners were persons of all social ranks as nobles, merchants, peasants, meshchane (the petty tradesmen), militaries, wives and widows of clergymen (to whom themselves the participation in trade was forbidden). The ‘Annual Journals’ Registers of Traders’ information gives us a new knowledge on the matter of rural consumption and portrays shopkeepers and characterizes their commercial ties.

The circulation of fashion across cities, countryside and borders in 18th century - New France and New York

Sarah Templier

This paper takes interest at how regional clothing styles and fashion trends developed and circulated in urban and rural settings, but also across metropoles and colonies. In the aftermath of the Seven Year’s War, Canada is undergoing an imperial transition, going from being a French to a British colony, alike its southern neighbor the colony of New York. How did that affect clothing regimes? Based on travel narratives, images, and newspaper advertisements, this paper compares perceptions of clothing and fashion in Canada and New York. Doing so, the paper raises the following question: how did fashion circulate? What affected clothing regimes and fashion trends: Imperial regimes, social class, urban or rural lifestyle?

This paper takes interest at how regional clothing styles and fashion trends developed and circulated in urban and rural settings, but also across metropoles and colonies. In the aftermath of the Seven Year’s War, Canada is undergoing an imperial transition, going from being a French to a British colony, alike its southern neighbor the colony of New York. How did that affect clothing regimes? Based on travel narratives, images, and newspaper advertisements, this paper compares perceptions of clothing and fashion in Canada and New York. Doing so, the paper raises the following question: how did fashion circulate? What affected clothing regimes and fashion trends: Imperial regimes, social class, urban or rural lifestyle?

Conduits of modernity? Lower Canadian country stores in the first half of the nineteenth-century.

Béatrice Craig

Early nineteenth century rural Canadian consumption is an understudied subject, victims in part of the “self-sufficient pioneer” cliché. Recent work has begun to debunk this perspective and depicts early nineteenth century rural dwellers as active consumers. This paper will examine the goods purchased at several country stores along the St Lawrence river in the middle of the 19th century, using the account books of six general merchants. Those merchants offered a widening range of goods, and new products, from “factory cotton” to Coburg, saleratus to rubber overshoes and coal oil to monkey wrenches appeared relatively quickly on the shelves and proved popular

Early nineteenth century rural Canadian consumption is an understudied subject, victims in part of the “self-sufficient pioneer” cliché. Recent work has begun to debunk this perspective and depicts early nineteenth century rural dwellers as active consumers. This paper will examine the goods purchased at several country stores along the St Lawrence river in the middle of the 19th century, using the account books of six general merchants. Those merchants offered a widening range of goods, and new products, from “factory cotton” to Coburg, saleratus to rubber overshoes and coal oil to monkey wrenches appeared relatively quickly on the shelves and proved popular