Conference call for papers – Retailing and Distribution in the Seventeenth Century

7 September 2017

University of Wolverhampton

trade-card

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution ­invites submissions for a conference that explores retailing and distribution in the seventeenth century.

Papers focusing on any geographical area or topic are welcome. We invite both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation. Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below). Some of the themes that  might be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Craft, manufacture and retailing
  • New commodities and old
  • Religion, charity and commerce
  • Markets, shops and shopping
  • Transport and distribution networks
  • Regulation, guilds and trade organisations
  • Chapmen, pedlars and hucksters
  • Advertising, reputation and print cultures
  • Commerce, war, disease and famine
  • Fashion, leisure and shopping

Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute ‘work in progress’ presentations, also followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words, specifying whether you are proposing a 10 or a 20 minute presentation to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 27 April 2017.

If you are unsure whether to submit a proposal or would like to discuss your ideas, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

The conference will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

or see the conference web-page, here: http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~in6086/conf2017.htm

Image: Trade Card of Samuel Spencer, Furniture Maker, late 17th/early 18th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 47.71.3, Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 1925. Image courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org/

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2016 Conference blogs – Provisioning the marketplace: Shopkeepers, hucksters, and direct sellers in early modern Italy (Vicenza, sixteenth century)

Luca Clerici, University of Padua, Italy, and École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France – UMR 8546 AOROC

Provisioning the marketplace: Shopkeepers, hucksters, and direct sellers in early modern Italy (Vicenza, sixteenth century)

The case of Vicenza’s food market during the sixteenth century is very interesting, both because of the wealth of this Venetian mainland town (thanks to the wool and the silk industry), and because of the rapid growth of its population (from 21,268 inhabitants in 1548 to 36,547 in 1617). It is known that in medieval and early modern towns, when foodstuffs and other basic goods were concerned, a particular attention was devoted to selling and especially reselling activities, in order to protect consumers from regrating and from what were considered unnecessary rises in prices. Nonetheless, acting mainly in urban and socially differentiated contexts, public authorities had to take into account not only consumers’ demands, not least to preserve social peace, but also those of sellers. Foodstuffs were often sold not only by the members of craft guilds, but also by many other categories of resellers or direct sellers, and, in this case, the variety of supply channels was carefully preserved by public authorities, in order to foster an abundant and cheap supply. Nevertheless, it produced a very complex discipline, chiefly because of the attempt to identify and separate the different groups involved in the same trade, which led to frequent conflicts between these groups. However, these very conflicts constitute an interesting vantage point to better understand the strategies and practices of the many actors who had a part in foodstuff retailing.

The trade of cheese and butter – sold by the members of two craft guilds, that of cheesemongers (who were shopkeepers) and that of the so-called ‘resellers’ (hucksters selling a wide range of foodstuffs), and by other sellers who were not enrolled in any guild – is an example of this plurality of actors. The principle of reconciling the different needs and interests of the town’s people, sellers, and municipality was operating, for example, in the letting of public shops in the areas of central market squares. Cheesemongers’ shops were situated under the town hall, and in a proclamation published in 1550, the town’s rectors and deputies prescribed to observe guilds’ statutes (also containing rules which were effective for anyone and not only for members) and, in particular, those of cheesemongers, ‘since it is suitable, to the general benefit and convenience, that the guilds’ statutes are observed, so that the guilds’ members are able to pay, by their work, the rents of their shops and other burdens’. Thus, protecting guilds from other sellers (in this case, hucksters selling butter and cheese in forbidden places, times, and ways) meant also protecting communal income. Shops were very lucrative, and the municipality progressively enlarged their number, both by buying the existing private ones, and by constructing new ones. But hucksters and direct sellers increased the number of sellers, thus increasing competition, to the buyers’ benefit. The municipality took into account these two facts. In 1534, for instance, the town’s council used the same term, utility, to refer both to the ‘municipality’s utility’ (civitatis utilitas), that is the income deriving from shop rentals, and the ‘public utility’ (publica utilitas), that is the supply deriving from the presence of hucksters and direct sellers in the market area.

Moreover, direct sellers, most of whom came from the countryside and were qualified as ‘poor’, sold their goods at lower prices than cheesemongers, and probably also than hucksters. Of course, cheesemongers complained about price competition, but it was not easy to solve the problem, because on the one hand lower prices benefited costumers, and in particular poor consumers, but on the other hand it was also in the costumers’ interest to rely on a regular supply, as that guaranteed by shopkeepers. Nonetheless, lower prices attracted hucksters in the market square assigned to direct sellers, wishing both to compete with shopkeepers by charging lower prices, and to buy up the goods sold by direct sellers and resell them at higher prices elsewhere. The situation was further complicated by the fact that hucksters not residing in the town were sometimes assimilated to direct sellers, since they both came from outside Vicenza, and sometimes to urban hucksters, since they both were resellers. We may thus observe a very complex situation, where all solutions to old problems entailed new problems and conflicts. This may however prove helpful in better understanding the articulation of urban provisioning systems, and the role played not only by public authorities, but also by intermediate bodies, such as craft guilds, or by informal groups of sellers.

References

Clerici, ‘Le prix du bien commun. Taxation des prix et approvisionnement urbain (Vicence, XVIe–XVIIe siècle)’, in I prezzi delle cose nell’età preindustriale / The prices of things in pre-industrial times, ed. by the Datini International Economic History Institute of Prato, Firenze, Firenze University Press, forthcoming.

Clerici, ‘L’approvisionnement du marché urbain: conflits et négociations (Vicence, XVIe siècle)’, in Il commercio al minuto. Domanda e offerta tra economia formale e informale. Secc. XIII–XVIII / Retail trade. Supply and demand in the formal and informal economy from the 13th to the 18th century, ed. by the Datini International Economic History Institute of Prato, Firenze, Firenze University Press, 2015, pp. 39–68.

Clerici, ‘Market, civic virtues, and civic bargaining in the medieval and early modern age: some evidence from sixteenth century Italy’, International Review of Economics, 59(4), 2012, pp. 459–475.

See also: https://unipd.academia.edu/LucaClerici

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Workshop and Call for Papers – Luxury and Exoticism: Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses

Thursday 8 June 2017

University of Wolverhampton

chinoiserie-detail

CHORD invites submissions for a workshop that explores luxurious and ‘exotic’ textiles and dress in the collections of museums and historic houses.

Papers focusing on any historical period or geographical area are welcome. We define luxury and exoticism broadly, including luxury items with no exotic connotations, and everyday or mass-produced ‘exotic’ items. Both textiles and clothing, decorative and ‘useful’ items are of interest. Museum professionals, conservators, students, academic scholars or anybody with an interest in the topic are warmly invited to submit a proposal. We welcome both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation.

Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below). Some of the themes that might be considered include (but are not limited to):

§ The care, display and interpretation of precious, rare or exotic textiles and dress

§ Chinoiserie, empire and imported luxuries

§ The changing nature and perceptions of luxury and exoticism

§ Fancy dress and masques

§ The conservation, repair and care of luxury dress and textiles.

§ Ethnographical items and collections

§ Haute couture and designer fashions.

§ Collections and collectors, historical and contemporary

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 10 March 2017.

chinoiserie-detail2Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute presentations, also followed by ten minutes of discussion, which might focus on a specific collection, object, new project or work in progress.

If you would like to discuss your ideas before submission, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

Small bursaries will be available for speakers to subsidise the cost of travel (within the UK) and the workshop fee.

The workshop will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For further information, please see http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~in6086/textiles2017.htm or e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

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2016 Conference blogs – Village Shops in Medieval England: The Case of East Meon, Hampshire

Mark Page, Victoria County History, Oxfordshire

Village Shops in Medieval England: The Case of East Meon, Hampshire1

By the 14th century shops were a common feature in towns and villages throughout England. In medieval Hampshire shops were particularly prominent in large towns and cities including Winchester, Southampton, and  Portsmouth,2 and they also flourished in smaller towns such as Alton, Fareham, and Havant.3 A dense network of weekly markets meant that inhabitants across the county had easy access to at least one – and often more than one – place where goods and services were regularly exchanged, and trading also occurred at the farm gate and in other unofficial locations. Villages supported fewer shops: demand was insufficiently strong to provide enough custom in rural places where most inhabitants were agricultural tenants and partly self-sufficient. Nevertheless village shops did exist in the Middle Ages, and this short article examines one recorded at East Meon.

In the 13th and 14th centuries East Meon was a largely agricultural village without commercial pretensions. It did not possess a licensed weekly market, and its inhabitants were within a day’s journey (reckoned at about 6 miles) of the market town of Petersfield. The village was, however, relatively isolated in hilly countryside on the edge of the South Downs, and it was the focus of a large parish containing numerous hamlets and farmsteads. Moreover in the years around 1300 the medieval population was at its height. Thus the appearance of a shop at East Meon would not be entirely unexpected. In 1321 Thomas le Mason left to his wife Alice and his brother Peter two stalls next to the stile of East Meon churchyard. Four years later a third stall in the same location was surrendered by Thomas le Barrer.4

A stall may originally have referred to a moveable wooden trading booth for temporary use at different places, but by the 14th century many stalls had become semi-permanent structures which could be bought, sold, and inherited like other types of property. The development of a temporary stall into a permanent shop is certainly suggested at East Meon, where Peter le Mason’s property next to the stile of the village churchyard was explicitly called a shop in 1339. In that year Peter surrendered it to Richard le Ridler, who also planned to enlarge it by acquiring an additional 5 ft of ground on its south side, 4 ft on its east side, and 3 ft on its north side. The shop’s encroachment of ground on its north, south, and east sides suggests that it bordered the churchyard on its west side, and a building fitting that description is shown on late 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps.

The shop’s location on the edge of the village churchyard is potentially significant. In the 12th century and probably before, unofficial markets were sometimes held when large numbers of people assembled at major churches to celebrate feast days or other significant occasions. These churchyard markets were unpopular with the church authorities, which tried to suppress them, but in many villages the churchyard provided the largest and most convenient public space for gatherings of local people for whom the church had become a focal point for both religious and secular purposes.5 East Meon was the mother church to a large Anglo-Saxon parochia, and even in the 14th century the church still served a wide area: in 1327 the parish encompassed places including Bordean, Coombe, Langrish, Oxenbourne, Riplington and Ramsdean.6 Long before Peter le Mason’s shop existed the village churchyard must have been the site for regular comings and goings of people from a wide area, offering plentiful opportunity for the exchange of news, gossip, goods and services.

While medieval records demonstrate the existence of village shops, and tell us something about their size, location, and ownership, they reveal little about their day to day use. What was bought and sold in the shop on the edge of East Meon churchyard? Did it offer a range of different goods and services, or was it more specialised? Was it open full-time or only part-time, perhaps when parishioners gathered at the church for specific religious events? Was it run by a professional shopkeeper, or by an agricultural tenant for whom it offered by-employment during slack times in the farming year? Were shops more often run by men or women, who might thereby supplement their household’s main income from agriculture? If surnames are still any guide to occupations in the early 14th century Richard le Ridler was a siever or sifter of corn, or possibly of sand and lime in making mortar, while Peter le Mason was a stoneworker. Were both these men involved in the building trade, and was the shop therefore the medieval equivalent of a builders’ yard? Certainly there was demand from the bishops of Winchester for builders to construct and maintain the episcopal residence and farm buildings at East Meon, and repairs to the barley barn and other structures were made in 1302.7 Whatever the shop was used for – and sadly we will probably never know for sure – it reminds us that commerce and exchange extended deep into the medieval English countryside.

References

1 This article is an extract from a paper titled ‘Who were the shopkeepers of medieval England?’ delivered to the conference ‘Retailing and Distribution before 1600’ at the University of Wolverhampton on 15 September 2016.

2 D. Keene, Survey of Medieval Winchester (1985); C. Platt, Medieval Southampton (1973); K. A. Hanna (ed.), Deeds from Portsmouth and its Area before 1547 (2008).

3 M. Page, ‘The origins of towns in medieval Hampshire: the case of Alton’, Hampshire Studies 60 (2005); M. Page, ‘Shops and shopkeepers in medieval Hampshire: evidence from Fareham and Havant before the Black Death’, Hampshire Studies 66 (2011).

4 Evidence from the Winchester pipe rolls entered in M. Page, ‘Peasant land market in southern England, 1260-1350’, database deposited at ESRC data archive, ref. no. SN 4086.

5 J. Blair, The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (2005), pp.335, 458, 503, 508.

6 P. Mitchell-Fox and M Page (eds), The Hampshire Tax List of 1327 (2014), pp.6-7.

7 E. Roberts, ‘William of Wykeham’s house at East Meon, Hants’, Archaeological Journal 150 (1993); M. Page (ed.), The Pipe Roll of the Bishopric of Winchester 1301-2 (1996), p.287.

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Workshop and call for papers – Retailing, Distribution and Reputation: Historical Perspectives

Tuesday 23 May 2017

University of Wolverhampton

CALL FOR PAPERS

image

The Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution invites submissions for a workshop that explores the role of reputation in retailing and distribution.

Papers focusing on any historical period or geographical area are welcome. We invite both experienced and new speakers, including speakers without an institutional affiliation. Potential speakers are welcome to discuss their ideas with the organiser before submission (please see details below). Some of the themes that  might be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Character, reputation and credit
  • Branding, name recognition and advertising
  • Exposés, scandals and disreputable practices
  • Modernity and tradition
  • Reputations, ethnicity, gender and class
  • Mysteries, secrets and arcane knowledge
  • Representations and self-presentationScientific discourses, technology and reputations
  • Trade bodies, guilds and self-regulation

Individual papers are usually 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We also welcome shorter, 10 minute ‘work in progress’ presentations, also followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

To submit a proposal, please send title and abstract of c.300 to 400 words, specifying whether you are proposing a 10 or a 20 minute presentation to Laura Ugolini, at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk by 3 March 2017.

If you are unsure whether to submit a proposal or would like to discuss your ideas, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

The workshop will be held on Wolverhampton City Campus, University of Wolverhampton, a short walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk

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2016 Conference blogs – Medieval Markets and the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Michael Lewis and Eljas Oksanen, Portable Antiquities Scheme

Medieval Markets and the Portable Antiquities Scheme

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was set up in 1997 to record small archaeological finds made by members of the public, mostly by metal-detecting. Managed by the British Museum and with a network of Finds Liaison Officers, interns and volunteers across England and Wales, the scheme’s online database (finds.org.uk) describes over a million objects with more than 80,000 being added every year. These finds cover a vast range of material culture from neolithic arrowheads to medieval coins and post-medieval candlesticks. The ‘medieval’ (1066-1540) dataset is the second largest by chronological period, and contains some 165,000 objects with more added every day. The medieval portion of the dataset has not been examined as thoroughly as, for example, the Roman. Consequently the GIS-led project Placing Medieval Markets in their Landscape Context through the Portable Antiquities Scheme Data at the British Museum aims to evaluate it in the context of studying the emergence, growth and decline of medieval commerce, markets and fairs.

As a national dataset the PAS finds are evidence of the use and availability of metalwork objects across long periods of time. For example, Figure 1 shows the chronological breakdown of some 65,000 medieval PAS non-coin finds that have been dated to within 200 years. A substantial increase in the numbers of finds to the fourteenth century is followed by a period of clear decline, before finds start to pick up again in the sixteenth century. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the PAS data therefore reflects both the population and economic growth across the Central Middle Ages, and the demographic catastrophe of the Black Death (first arriving in 1348 to England). The difficulty in the close dating of these objects is a challenge to any temporal investigation of the PAS database, of course, but it is lent greater credence through comparative analysis with other independent datasets. Martin Allen’s research on the amount of coinage in circulation, and Carenza Lewis’ ceramics data from 1,700 test pits dug in eastern English rural settlements, reflect a very similar decline from around the mid-fourteenth century. Together these speak for a more maximalist interpretation of the impact of the Black Death on economic and consumer activity.

Figure 1

figure-1-oksanen

An area of particular interest to our project is the relationship of the PAS data to rural market sites. These served as a point of access to commercial networks for the vast majority of the medieval population, while at the same time being poorly served by documentary sources. Weekly markets were a key component of peasant economy through the Middle Ages, and over the last few decades there has been a growing awareness that local village economies were often connected to broader networks of exchange at an early stage. Already by the twelfth century there had emerged commercial networks that linked weekly markets and small towns to regional urban centres, which in turn served as nexus-points of long-distance trade.

There is a general geographic association between the PAS data and medieval settlements that possessed markets. One-fifth of all medieval finds were made within 1 km of a known medieval market town, or a land area that is only about one-twentieth of the total area of England. Likewise, on a national level there are differences between the compositions of PAS finds near market towns and the total population of all finds. Statistical analyses of the data shows that some objects are much more likely to be found near settlements that had hosted a market, in particular those successful and long-lived medieval markets that survived to the Early Modern Period, which is helpful for establishing distinctions between the material cultural profiles of urban and rural sites. For example pilgrim badges are found in average three times more commonly in the vicinity of a market, or over six times near a market that survived to the Early Modern Period. Such information can offer insight on the religious life, or indeed the opportunities for long-distance travel enjoyed by different populations.

The spatial and temporal distribution of PAS finds can also be used to investigate varying intensities of economic activity. Figure 2 maps the broad national pattern of marketing that had emerged by the mid-thirteenth century, based on market charters or direct evidence of market activity. (S. Letters, Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516, 2002, radius = 16 km) While nearly everywhere in England was within a day’s return journey of at least one market site, regions of high or low density activity demonstrate how populations in different areas enjoyed varying degrees of access to multiple, presumably competing franchises. The medium-to-high density region around London, for example, must have been connected to the economy of the city. But the three ‘hottest’ areas were, from left to right, at the Somerset Levels, where the London-Exeter road meets of the Foss Way near waterways discharging into the Bristol Channel; at the upper navigable reaches of the Thames, at a place which the Droitwich Saltways had marked since the Anglo-Saxon period as a major stepping stone between the water highways of the Thames and the Severn; and finally near the intersection of the Icknield Way, the Watling Street and the river Great Ouse.

Figure 2

figure-2-oksanen-revised

These unusual densities of local markets are located around intersections of major cross-country long-distance routes, and also at places that mark the transfer from one form of transportation to another, such as a boat or a ship to a cart or a packhorse. Such zones are evidence that many successful local markets were integrated into broader networks of interregional and perhaps even international exchange, and also highlights their key role in the development of the British medieval economy. The PAS data supports this argument: a high concentration of coin finds indicates that a markedly high level of commercial exchange along the Icknield Way in eastern Midlands dated back to the Anglo-Saxon period, long before significant written records on formal market activity had become available.

The PAS data holds the potential to fill in gaps left by the often very limited documentary evidence on local commerce. Owing to the industriousness of local metal-detectorists, there is high yield of PAS data from around the medieval vills of Saltfleetby and Skidbrooke in coastal Lincolnshire. Saltfleetby was an old economic centre attested in Domesday Book of 1086, but its commercial pre-eminence was usurped by the neighbouring Skidbrooke by the fourteenth century. The pattern of single finds of coins made in the vicinity of the two settlements in Figure 3 starkly illustrates Saltfleetby’s economic decline. In this case it was possible to confirm the changing fortunes of the two vills from written sources, but what our project aims to demonstrate is how a critical approach to the PAS data offers the opportunity to map long-term trends unattainable through other means – ideally including in places not covered by written evidence. The power of the PAS data is founded in its extraordinary spatial and temporal reach across England and Wales, enabling the study of historical developments equally at local and national levels.

Figure 3

figure-3-oksanen

Michael Lewis – mlewis@britishmuseum.org

Eljas Oksanen – e.i.oksanen@cantab.net

For more on the project and the PAS see:

‘Medieval Markets and Portable Antiquities Scheme’, E. Oksanen and M. Lewis, in Medieval Settlement Research 30 (Medieval Settlement Research Group, London, 2015), 54-9.

‘Exploring the Commercial Landscape of Medieval Saltfleetby and Skidbrooke, Lincolnshire, through PAS Data’, E. Oksanen and M. Lewis, in Medieval Archaeology 59 (forthcoming).

Project website: medievalmarketsites.wordpress.com

PAS: finds.org.uk

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2016 Conference blogs – Materiality and Meaning: Goods as Legal and Cultural Currency

Kate Kelsey Staples, West Virginia University, US

Materiality and Meaning: Goods as Legal and Cultural Currency

Medieval people exerted actions on things – they bought and sold; they reused and repaired; they stole. They stored value and meaning in goods. Yet, to what extent can we know how these goods acted on people? And, what can we learn from that action? Medieval court records reveal that material objects, commodities in many cases, shaped lives and tied people in bonds of obligation, real, proclaimed, or denied.

In 1540, Richard Flower sued Edmund Backeton in the Court of Chancery over a wall-hanging, a secondhand saye cloth, for his house in Fletestreet in London (TNA C 1/987/13). Saye was a popular type of cloth used for a variety of purposes by the sixteenth century, and wall-hangings were not uncommon in burgess households. The image in figure 5 in ‘Ways of Seeing Early Modern Decorative Textiles’, in Textile History (47:1, 2016) by Catherine Richardson and Tara Hamling (available on Open Access here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00404969.2016.1144672?src=recsys) suggests how such wall-hangings in the sixteenth century may have functioned.  Flower and Backeton disagreed over the amount charged, in a classic he-said, she-said equity case. When we read these records, we tend to focus on the business contacts, networks, and disputed amounts. Yet, the saye cloth physically marked the contract between businessmen and it served as a constant point of reference throughout the court record. I argued in this paper for the CHORD conference that by considering this material object we can unlock some new meaning to this case and others like it.

In this record, we have a decidedly one-sided version of the truth. However, the saye cloth as a ‘thing’ served in this case as a buttress of that truth. Without the detail about where the cloth came from, how it was negotiated for, and even where it was hung, Flower’s case against Backeton may have foundered. It allowed the judge to envision, materially, the nature of the dispute and how Flower was wronged. The saye cloth had a value, but it also had a cultural and legal currency. It served as the glue for a business contract, and it provided leverage in a legal setting. Finally, as this material object was a secondhand good, these court records bring the trade in used goods into sharper focus.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the audience of the 2016 CHORD conference for their thoughts on the paper I delivered at ‘Retailing and Distribution before 1600’. Thank you, too, to my research assistant, Morgan McMinn, who worked on analyzing this case with me.

For additional publications by Kate Kelsey Staples, please see:

‘The Significance of the Secondhand Trade in Europe, 1200-1600’, History Compass 13:6 (June 2015): 297-309.

Daughters of London: Inheriting Opportunity in Late Medieval London. Brill Academic Publishers, 2011.

‘Fripperers and the Used Clothing Trade in Late Medieval London’, Medieval Clothing and Textiles, 6 (May 2010): 151-171.

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