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Wednesday 18 March 2020 16.30 - 18.30
V-4 MAT01B Addressing the Consumer in the Atlantic World (c.1650-1900): Practices, Discourses and Methods II
Matthias de Vrieshof 2, 002
Network: Material and Consumer Culture Chair: Bruno Blondé
Organizers: Bruno Blondé, Bert De Munck, Christine Fertig Discussant: Robert DuPlessis
Alessandra De Mulder : London calling. Value constructions in eighteenth-century London auction advertisements
Though the rise of advertising is often linked to the commercial innovations of retailers in the early-modern period, eighteenth-century auctioneers fervently made use of this new way of ‘addressing the consumer’. In this paper, we want to shed light on the advertorial discourses that were produced around these auctions in ... (Show more)
Though the rise of advertising is often linked to the commercial innovations of retailers in the early-modern period, eighteenth-century auctioneers fervently made use of this new way of ‘addressing the consumer’. In this paper, we want to shed light on the advertorial discourses that were produced around these auctions in England and France and to suggest some methodological ‘strategies’ on how these sources can be used to resolve a range of historical bottlenecks.

Auctions in the eighteenth century were thriving. Their popularity, even though auctioneers predominantly sold what we would define today as used or ‘second-hand’ goods, shows that the ‘old’ was far from ‘out’. On the contrary, some auctions of specialised products such as books and art developed themselves into ‘proper’ cultural events. Indeed, the prestige of an auction could vary significantly depending on the social status of the testator. Therefore, auctions also knew a social geography, depending on the sales’ exact location (e.g. in the former dwelling of the deceased) in the city but also in a larger region or country (think of the so-called ‘city-bias’).

The adverts that were published in newspapers to announce an auction were obviously written in order to sell the goods they described. They cannot confirm with any certainty whether a good was in fact ‘old’ or ‘new’, as this does not coincide with ‘second-hand’ and ‘retail’. Thus, descriptions needed to respond to what contemporaries saw as prevailing aesthetic ideals as well as moral conventions on consumption in order to attract possible buyers. These adverts depicted the goods in their most saleable form, which means they are slightly less representative of the testator’s possessions than, for example, probate inventories, but their insight into consumer values easily offsets this disadvantage. In our analysis, we will qualitatively and quantitatively examine different discursive strategies that were deployed to convey value to the auctioned goods. As to verify Trentmann’s (2016) statement on the shift from material-based to design-based product evaluations, we will trace the frequency of different categories of consumer values throughout time regarding various manners of value constructions (aesthetics, quality, ‘novelty’, ‘comfort’, ‘fashionability’ …)

Finally, we explore whether this type of research can be reconciled and successfully combined with other methodologies and approaches. Here we will present our own experiences regarding handling these sources to answer a diversity of questions and reflect on the challenges we have faced by applying diverse Digital Humanities tools such as word embeddings and GIS to auction advertisements. (Show less)

Charris De Smet : Marketing the Revolution? Parisian advertisements for revolutionary auctions during the Terror
tba

Emma Hart : Newspaper Advertisements and Settler Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century British North America
When colonial British American newspaper advertisements are compared to their British counterparts, one finds a number of notable differences. Colonists were more likely to place a newspaper advertisement, and a greater variety of goods, people, and services were advertised. Most specifically, colonists used newspaper advertisements to sell goods – ... (Show more)
When colonial British American newspaper advertisements are compared to their British counterparts, one finds a number of notable differences. Colonists were more likely to place a newspaper advertisement, and a greater variety of goods, people, and services were advertised. Most specifically, colonists used newspaper advertisements to sell goods – land and people – that were almost impossible to retail in a physical space. Furthermore, the newspaper advertisement had the advantage of reaching a wider variety of customers, many of whom read the paper in one of the many remote locations that characterised these young colonies. Overall, colonial American advertising was a means by which literate, white people – mostly men – could consolidate their wealth, property, and power in a settler society. As such, it is legitimate to view the newspaper advertisement as a tool of settler colonialism. (Show less)



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