Despite consumption and retailing having grown to form a meta-narrative in historical enquiry, the village shop has largely escaped attention. Remarkably little is known about the long-term development of rural services, particularly shops, which are often ignored as marginal and undynamic. Moreover, whilst their recent decline has highlighted their perceived importance to the vitality of village life, the extent to which this is based on a romanticised or historically myopic image is unclear. This thesis seeks to rectify this lacuna by critically assessing the real and imagined role of the shop and shopkeeper within village life during the nineteenth century, in terms of supplying goods and services, integrating and representing community as a place and a network of people, and projecting images of the rural into the wider national consciousness. It adopts an innovative interdisciplinary approach and offers an integrated analysis of a wide range of visual, literary and historical sources: from paintings and serialised stories to account books and trade directories. Central to the argument is a sustained interrogation of the shifting historic construction of the village shop and its keeper, from exploitative and anti-rural to the epitome of a nostalgic and sentimentalised view of England’s rural communities. This is compared to the lived experience, as established from the historical record, quantitative analysis conducted at both village and county level. This synthetic approach has required the amalgamation of multiple perspectives: writer and artist; reader and consumer; observer and participant; patron and critic; shopkeeper, customer and villager. The thesis inputs into debates relating to the commercial history and cultural understanding of rural communities, the findings broadening our understanding of the history of rural retailers and the communities they served, shedding light on rural consumption and how changing attitudes to retailing, rural communities and the countryside were developing. It also contributes to other key areas of research including the notion of community (places and networks) and cultural representations of people, place, space and everyday life.
|Date of Award||2015|
- University of Northampton
|Supervisor||Lawrence Phillips (Supervisor), Phillippa Bennett (Supervisor) & Jon Stobart (Supervisor)|