Consumer Revolution? Food, Things and Fashion in England 1500-1800: Sources (HIH3597)

StaffProfessor Jane Whittle - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at level 1 and/or level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3598 Consumer Revolution? Food, Things and Fashion in England 1500-1800 : Context
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module examines the changing nature of consumption in early modern England, ranging from changes in diet and clothing, to housing, furnishings and fine art. It looks at the way new items such as tea, coffee, clocks, forks and cotton clothing, were accepted and adapted into everyday life, and asks whether by the eighteenth century, these changes constituted a 'consumer revolution'. The module will draw upon a wide range of primary sources, including illustrations and the objects themselves, as well as inventories, accounts, personal documents, trade records and early modern literature. It investigates where these goods came from, how they were marketed and acquired by consumers; it examines how and why new patterns of consumption were adopted, and who by.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Obtain a detailed knowledge of the range and type of sources emerging from this period, alongside an ability to evaluate them effectively
  • 2. Compare and contrast different sources and to harness a diverse range of sources to form an argument.
  • 3. Obtain an in-depth, specialist knowledge of those sources forming the basis of the presentation.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse closely complex original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence
  • 5. Focus on and comprehend complex texts and other types of evidence.
  • 6. Understand and deploy historical terminology correctly.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Carry out independent and autonomous study in addition to group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

After an introductory session on the meaning of consumption, the following topics will be covered: food and diet, drinking and sociability; cooking and dining; elite houses; vernacular houses, furnishing the home; new things (clocks and mirrors); elite fashion; men’s clothes; plebeian fashion; purchasing goods; shopping and gender; was there a ‘Consumer revolution’? Different theoretical approaches will also be considered such as Norbert Elias on manners and etiquette; anthropological work on gifts and commodities; and Thorsten Veblen on emulation.There will be at least two trips during the module to a local museum and other relevant locations.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44seminars (22 x 2hr)
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7, 9Oral from tutor and fellow students

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4,000 words1-9Verbal and Written
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-9Verbal and Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-9Referral/deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation.1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

• John E. Crowley, The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America (John Hopkins University Press, 2001).
• Matthew Johnson, English Houses 1300-1800: Vernacular Architecture, Social Life (Pearson Longman, 2010).
• Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads and Fashions 1500-1760 (Hambledon Continuum, London, 2007).
• Susan Vincent, Dressing the Elite: Clothes in Early Modern England, (Berg, 2003).
• Woodruff D. Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability 1600-1800 (Routledge, 2002).
• Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 2009).
• L. Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760, (Routledge, London, 1988).
• Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange (Oxford University Press, 2012).

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Key words search

Consumer Revolution, Food, Fashion, English History