Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The day the mass market was born

We have a very warped sense of history. We build our images and our assumptions from the sets of TV or films, and much of this is undoubtedly inaccurate. Furthermore, the sets are usually those of the maybe 10,000 members of the richest, most splendid with little attention paid to the mundane surroundings and lifestyles of the workers and peasants.
At the turn of the 18th Century, most people in England owned the clothes they stood up in, a spare set, some cooking implements and a wooden plate. Almost no-one owned even a wooden cup, yet 25 years later almost everyone did.
It is so difficult understanding what people did, where and how they shopped, what they did with what little free time they had.

Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian England brings the history of the consumer society to glorious life; how it all started and why - advertising, sports, entertainment, possessions, from necessities to luxuries. It's a bit misleading as Judith Flanders addresses a far wider range of topics than might be expected from such a dry title.

She even dates the start of the mass market to precisely the 26th May 1851, the first day of the 'one shilling' days at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace.

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