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Wednesday 18 March 2020 14.00 - 16.00
V-3 MAT01A Addressing the Consumer in the Atlantic World (c.1650-1900): Practices, Discourses and Methods
Matthias de Vrieshof 2, 002
Network: Material and Consumer Culture Chair: Bruno Blondé
Organizers: Bruno Blondé, Bert De Munck, Christine Fertig Discussants: -
Daniel Alves : A Digital Humanities Approach to Study Retail Trade and Consumption in Lisbon at the End of the Nineteenth Century
A study about retail trade and consumption in a European city at the end of the nineteenth century has to deal with several questions. This was a time of profound changes in the urban landscape. A time of transformation of the ways the state and municipal powers tried to regulate ... (Show more)
A study about retail trade and consumption in a European city at the end of the nineteenth century has to deal with several questions. This was a time of profound changes in the urban landscape. A time of transformation of the ways the state and municipal powers tried to regulate the economic and social life of the cities. A new cycle in that revolution of consumption that had started at the end of the eighteenth century. One reflexion of this were the changes that occurred in the urban retail trade that were influenced by new consumers, new ways of consumption, new ways of selling and advertising. All this gave rise to a huge amount of information, a lot of archival records, many of them still manuscripts. Dealing with this data poses several challenges: dispersed sources, in very different formats, richly with information, hard to read, about a physical and social environment in profound mutations. Accessing these sources, collecting data from them, analysing the huge amount of records this process generates can be approached by trying to integrate traditional research methods with digital ones. Studying thousands of records about retail trade and consumption about Lisbon at the end of the nineteenth century using databases and geographic information systems can be an opportunity to reflect on those challenges (Show less)

Susanna Burghartz : “Printed Markets” – an Information Platform for the Emerging Consumer Society. A Case Study of the Basel Avisblatt (1729-1844)
With the rise of the consumer society, new markets formed at the same time new forms of information developed: the ‘intelligencers’. These new advertising journals were met with great interest from the public and served as archives for the new worlds of goods as well as for socially relevant information ... (Show more)
With the rise of the consumer society, new markets formed at the same time new forms of information developed: the ‘intelligencers’. These new advertising journals were met with great interest from the public and served as archives for the new worlds of goods as well as for socially relevant information (such as deceased citizens or office elections). Obviously, their advertisements and (anecdotal) news also had certain entertainment value.

Taking Basel as an example, this paper discusses the Avisblatt as a platform on which information on various markets (goods, housing, labour, political elections, obituaries, etc.) was gathered and archived. It asks whether and how such a melange could have affected the interaction between buyers and sellers and the processes of value attribution.

Basel, a proto-industrial hot spot for silk ribbon production, belonged to the Atlantic world of the 18th and 19th centuries. As early as 1729, the city granted a licence for a privately run Intelligenzblatt, which in the following decades developed into an important information platform. To this day, the Basler Avisblätter have been preserved in their entirety from 1729 to 1844 and thus form a valuable archive for long-term research into the development of Basel's early capitalist consumer society. (Show less)

Alessandra De Mulder : London calling. Value Constructions in Eighteenth-century London Auction Advertisements
How did advertisements convince consumers to spend their hard-earned money? This has been one of the core problems in consumer historiography. Today, for example, ‘sustainability’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and other such buzzwords are used by producers and retailers to distinguish themselves from their competitors and convince consumers to buy their products. ... (Show more)
How did advertisements convince consumers to spend their hard-earned money? This has been one of the core problems in consumer historiography. Today, for example, ‘sustainability’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and other such buzzwords are used by producers and retailers to distinguish themselves from their competitors and convince consumers to buy their products. Many historians have hypothesised about which eighteenth-century buzzwords were in everyday use to sell goods: for Woodruff Smith advertising strategies centred around notions of respectability while Beverley Lemire argued how people aspired to be fashionable above anything else. However, a more thorough and wind-ranging reconstruction of advertising language is needed to complete these, all-in-all, still very impressive findings surrounding eighteenth-century motivations of buyers. Moreover, we are in urgent need to move beyond well-known Enlightenment discourses and discover anew the day-to-day commercial language used by more common eighteenth-century retailers and salesmen themselves.
The United Kingdom, and more precisely London, has been the breeding ground of an extensive historiography surrounding eighteenth-century consumer culture for its central role due to the political turmoil in France and other evolutions such as the transatlantic trade flows of commodities such as coffee. This not only lead to an explosion of texts by great thinkers about the possible negative consequences of consumption, but it also meant that London was at the forefront of many retail and taste innovations.
I will tackle the abovementioned concerns by empirically mapping the underlying value constructions in auction advertisements in eighteenth-century London, specifically, the Daily Advertiser. Firstly, I will perform a digital text analysis on the auction advertisements. The results of this analysis will provide me with the ideal basis to carry out a second part: a close reading of the sources in order to find motivational drivers behind eighteenth-century consumption patterns. Preliminary results show that the bundle of values that ran the show are very different than what is generally assumed. Tracing the pivotal words and stock phrases used to sell products with the abovementioned methodological sequence will lead to a cultural history of values of eighteenth-century Britain.
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Charris De Smet : Marketing the French Revolution? Parisian Advertisements for Revolutionary Auctions during the Terror
This paper features an exploratory study into the interrelations between luxury consumption and the French Revolution. Inspired by Timothy Breen’s thesis that connects changes in material culture in late-colonial America to the development of a radical strategy of political resistance, this article has examined consumer patterns and values on Parisian ... (Show more)
This paper features an exploratory study into the interrelations between luxury consumption and the French Revolution. Inspired by Timothy Breen’s thesis that connects changes in material culture in late-colonial America to the development of a radical strategy of political resistance, this article has examined consumer patterns and values on Parisian second-hand auctions before and during the Revolution. The research goal was to understand the impact of the Revolution on these markets, where the revolutionary government sold the confiscated noble estates. Using the advertisements from the Parisian commercial newspaper Affiches, Annonces et Avis Divers that announced second-hand auction sales, this research first analyzed products and their social distributions during the Terror comparing the figures with a pre-revolutionary year (1778 vs. 1793). Secondly, this research looked at the consumer values that gave cultural and social meaning to the products and guided the buyers in their consumption. The unprecedented diffusion of aristocratic luxuries on the second-hand market was supported by an unchanging advertising discourse of elite consumer values centered around aesthetics and high quality. Consequently, the policies of the revolutionary executive government during the Reign of Terror strengthened traditional consumption practices and endorsed value systems that reproduced social inequality through material culture. (Show less)



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