Shops, retailing and consumption in eighteenth-century provincial England: Norwich 1660-1800

  • Amy Clare Barnett

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The history of retail and consumption during the eighteenth-century has enjoyed interest from historians for a number of decades, yet few studies have concentrated on large cities or utilised a case study method to develop an in-depth and longitudinal understanding of change across the whole century. This study seeks to rectify this by concentrating on the city of Norwich, which was the second largest city in England in 1700, in order to build up a detailed social history of retail, shopping and consumption. The research seeks to clarify the exact nature of change in urban retail and consumption, exploring the existence of consumer and retail 'revolutions' and the relationship between them.

    Using a variety of archival sources the study uncovers the extent of the consumption of novel goods, the changing nature of the economic character of each of Norwich's thirty-four parishes and uncovers the dual personality of the city, with evidence for a leisured town set within the larger industrial city. Detailed mapping of directory data points to a concentration of luxury retail in key streets, making up a cultural thoroughfare which linked the traditional cultural centre of the city in the east to the new purpose-built leisure arena on the western boundary. The character of retail change and the role of the shopkeeper is assessed through newspaper advertisements, trade cards, probate inventories, diaries and contemporary visual representations of the city centre. While a clear transformation was detected across the century, the evidence suggests that change was cumulative rather than a big shift at a fixed point in time. However, although the changes noted in this research did not constitute 'revolution' in an immediate sense, the modifications in urban spaces, retail and consumption, which were evident from the beginning of the century, were undoubtedly significant in their long-term effects by laying the foundations for current practice.
    Date of AwardJul 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorJon Stobart (Supervisor) & Cathy Smith (Supervisor)

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