7 September 2017 – CHORD Conference – Retailing and Distribution in the Seventeenth Century

7 September 2017

University of Wolverhampton

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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/

Programme

10.00 – 10.30     Coffee and welcome

10.30 – 11.00     Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield, UK

The dissemination of tobacco in seventeenth-century England, 1625-1685

11.00 – 11.30     Tom Rusbridge, University of Birmingham, UK

Innovations in Tanning in Early Modern Britain and Europe

11.30 – 12.00   Glynis Hughs, independent researcher, UK

‘What Do You Lack?’ The Role of the Itinerant Trader in Seventeenth Century England

12.00 – 12.30   Jessica Cunningham, Maynooth University, Co Kildare, Ireland

‘Establishing excellence and consumer confidence: Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild in the seventeenth century’

12.30 – 13.30     Lunch

13.30 – 14.00     Laurie Lindey, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, UK

The London furniture trade, 1640-1720

14.00 – 14.30     Evana Downes, University of Kent, UK

Balancing the urban ‘stomach’: the impact of regulation on London’s food vendors

14.30 – 14.50     Mabel Winter, University of Sheffield, UK

The Case of Thompson & Company: commerce, banking, and politics in the late seventeenth century

14.50 – 15.30   Coffee

15.30 – 16.00 Sébastien Pautet, University Paris Diderot (Paris VII), France

Make It Come True. Far East Product Imitations in Parisian Shops at the End of the Seventeenth Century

16.00 – 16.30     Charlie Taverner, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Marginal no more: selling food on the street in seventeenth-century London

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Information

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

For maps and directions, please see:

http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/contacts-and-maps/all-maps-and-directions/map-and-directions-for-city-campus-wolverhampton/

The fee is £ 22

To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store, at http://www.estore.wlv.ac.uk/)

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

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Abstracts

Jessica Cunningham, Maynooth University, Co Kildare, Ireland

‘Establishing excellence and consumer confidence: Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild in the seventeenth century’

This twenty-minute paper will explore the development of Dublin’s goldsmiths’ guild over the course of the seventeenth century as it transformed itself from a small, unregulated organisation into a large incorporated company sanctioned with the authority to regulate the production and retail of silver, gold and jewellery throughout Ireland.

The paper will examine the motivations of the early-seventeenth century goldsmiths in Dublin who consciously strove to establish excellence and autonomy in the manufacture of Irish silver. It will analyse the demographic diversity of the guild and how this impacted on the transformation of Dublin’s goldsmiths in this period. Furthermore, it will demonstrate how these goldsmiths – Irish, English, Dutch, French, German – drew on contemporary European guild practices in their vision for Dublin’s guild and the craft in Ireland. Ultimately, as it will be shown, the desire by Irish consumers for material authentication generated this decisive shift in seventeenth-century Dublin.

In addition, this paper will identify from the documentary and object evidence the methods employed by the organisation throughout the century in regulating the metalworking craft in Ireland and will evaluate whether its aims were realised or merely aspirational.

This paper’s findings, drawn on recent doctoral research, will illuminate new avenues of primary investigation and analysis into a luxury craft in seventeenth-century Ireland.

Evana Downes, University of Kent, UK

Balancing the urban ‘stomach’: the impact of regulation on London’s food vendors

Early modern vending and market regulations indicate that food vendors occupied a central role in urban hierarchies. Their practices and wares contributed not only to the continued health and stability of the individual body, but the urban body as a whole. By influencing urban diets, victuallers could help reinforce social status, positive social behaviour, and general health. By maintaining a steady supply of food (particularly during periods of dearth), and distributing it honestly, they could contribute to social stability. The activities and movements of some food vendors could also shape the urban landscape, contributing to the prosperity of some spaces, while potentially polluting others.

From the 1500s, the English Crown and Corporation of London began to emphasise the need to maintain and protect urban public health. This concern grew as the sixteenth century progressed, advancing into the seventeenth. Though ostensibly formulated to curb the spread of disease, legislation concerned with public health increasingly equated the wellbeing of the individual body to that of the body politic. As a result, early public health laws in England were tinged with a moral aspect, pitting the danger of biological contagion alongside that of social pollution.

While the effect of public health regulation on physicians and other health-workers has been well-researched, less has been written about how shifting concepts of medicine and public health impacted upon the working lives of other occupational groups. Less still has been written about the lot of London’s food vendors, whose production and distribution of nourishment to civic populations had been monitored by local authorities since the Middle Ages. This paper will discuss aspects of a new project that aims to address this gap in research. Using sources such as The Lawes of the Markette (updated throughout the seventeenth century) and sessions books and papers, it will investigate ways in which new and adapted market and vending regulations reflected and affected the experiences of victuallers in seventeenth century London. It will focus particularly on how diverse groups of victuallers – through their physical presence, occupational practices, and wares – were thought capable of negatively affecting the health of other civic members. Finally, it will consider the implications of these associations, with reference to how victualling groups were integrated into – or kept to the margins of – London’s urban hierarchy.

Glynis Hughs, independent researcher, UK

‘What Do You Lack?’ The Role of the Itinerant Trader in Seventeenth Century England

The seventeenth century itinerant trader was an elusive character, in spite of the attempts by state, local authorities or even literature to make them to conform to a narrative, they refused to comply.

Often depicted in picaresque literature and cheap print as a source for spreading immorality and criminality, they were accused of destroying the financial stability of the towns and cities and acting as a threat to local trades and companies. State legislation and civic records paint the itinerant trader as a social pariah, detrimental to all society and liable to punishment and repatriation, and frequently, such as in John Ivie’s account of the administration of Poor Relief in Salisbury, seen as a danger to the wellbeing of the settled poor. However, examination of local records such as the Salisbury Constable’s Book and the Manchester Constable’s Accounts show a different image, and in many cases the itinerant trader was not only tolerated but also provided a necessary service to the poorest in the community.

Historians have most often placed the itinerant trader within a history of Vagrancy, using such terms as “unsettled, “outcast” or even “masterless”.   However, work by Margaret Spufford has called this view into question, demonstrating through the use of wills and inventories that the role of the pedlar or petty chapman often provided a necessary service to rural communities and also acted as a bridge between the local population and the gentry. Those who left wills and inventories were likely to be licenced peddlers rather than itinerants.

In examining the entries in Hall Books, Constable Books and Quarter Sessions records, I intend to demonstrate that many itinerant traders also exhibited a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial skills. Far from being “victims of circumstance” or simply adding to the “economy of makeshifts” I consider that they added a vital component to the nascent consumer society and their presence allowed all levels of society access to the pleasures of consumption.

Laurie Lindey, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, UK

The London furniture trade, 1640-1720

This paper examines the London furniture trade in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a period which witnessed dramatic transformations in the designs, styles and construction of English furniture. While this topic has been addressed in detail in terms of object-based analyses, it has never been examined from a social, economic and cultural perspective.

Given that this presentation is limited to twenty minutes, the following topics will be briefly discussed. The paper begins with the evolution of decorative design in England in the early modern period and the effects of burgeoning consumerism. It then defines the various types of specialised artisans and craftsmen who produced new forms and styles of furniture, and the ways in which the chain of production was structured. Thereafter we identify where London furniture makers were situated. Where was furniture manufactured and where was it sold? Were particular types of furniture sold in specific areas of the metropolis? This paper identifies the geographical location of the trade in the City of London and its spread into the fashionable West End. Finally we are introduced to two London furniture makers: we discover what a Covent Garden cabinetmaker in the post Restoration period manufactured and retailed, and who his clients were, and then we explore the workshop and manufacturing network of a caned chair maker in St. Paul’s Churchyard at the close of the seventeenth century.

Sébastien Pautet, University Paris Diderot (Paris VII), France

Make It Come True. Far East Product Imitations in Parisian Shops at the End of the Seventeenth Century

The ‘Taste for China’ is probably one the most surprising and durable fashion phenomenon of the Ancien Régime. The installation of European Jesuits and merchants in China during the 17th century, the stabilization of commercial connexions between Europe and the Far-East and the great embassies between Asian and European monarchies stimulated a great consumption of Asian luxuries.

Nevertheless, the Taste for China was not only based on Asian products. Craftsmen and manufacturers have tried to produce locally some global luxuries imported from the other side of the world. Imitations and hybrids from China or Japan were encouraged by the authorities and by commercial networks (Berg, 2015). While many historians of consumption and economics have raised the interest for Asian trades and its impacts on European consumption (Berg, 2005, 2015; Coquery, 2008, 2009), the question of Asian products is now central to scholarly investigations on technology as well (Riello, Parthasarathi, 2009), and historians have emphasized the question of ‘imitation’ in the process of product innovation (Berg, 2002).

This talk aims to understand the question of imitation and invention in a global context from a technical point of view. I will focus on products sold in Parisian shops and on imitations of Chinese and Japanese products in order to understand the construction of a market for fake Asian products at the end of the seventeenth century, and its impacts on both technical and commercial cultures.

Tom Rusbridge, University of Birmingham, UK

Innovations in Tanning in Early Modern Britain and Europe

The seventeenth century in Britain marked an important crucible in which the fundamentally medieval industry of tanning – taking raw animal hides and using a series of processes and botanical materials to create leather – underwent highly significant change. On the one hand, such innovations were driven by the invention of local tanners who responded to environmental changes to generate new methods of manufacturing leather, and on the other by the outward investigation and reporting of those who travelled to Europe to observe the practices of tanners in France, Germany and Denmark, among other countries. Both ‘home-grown’ innovations and those based on foreign observation were underpinned by quotidian and domestic responses to change materials, craft and manufacture, especially as an increasing range of types of leather were released into the consumer space.

This paper will examine documentary evidence of changing tanning practices through tanning manuals and reports and assess how they represented multiple types of innovation within a single framework of understanding, as early as 1583. It responds to the conference themes by analysing new and unique methods of craft and manufacture with the context Britain’s seventeenth century and its relationship with Europe, and contextualises these developments within the print culture, trades, industry and intellectual interest which were at once both motivations for their development and vehicles through which these changes were communicated to a public audience. Ultimately, it shall argue that seventeenth century innovations in tanning had long-standing impacts for British manufactures and crafts, and seeks to undermine the notion that such innovation was confined to the eighteenth century and rise of mechanized production.

Charlie Taverner, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Marginal no more: selling food on the street in seventeenth-century London

Lower and middling Londoners relied on informal retail for their food, but the practicalities and personalities of small-scale selling in the early modern city have been hard to recover. Most histories have marginalised urban hawkers, who traded on the move, beyond fixed sites like markets and shops. Work on women’s labour, poverty, and the growing metropolis has also sketched these figures as poor nuisances, selling awful food and switching between several badly paid jobs. Recently historians have begun to suggest hawkers, across Europe, could be substantial retailers and a force in a city’s society and economy, in which the informal sector, for food especially, was substantial. This paper proposes a methodology and theoretical approach for writing focused accounts of selling food on the street in early modern London. It shows how historians can use a broader set of sources, which break away from the reliance on judicial material – which typically shows hawkers in trouble – and representations – in which they are idealised as picturesque or comical. Using sources ranging from samples of ward records to incidental mentions in depositions, it is possible to show a fuller picture of the hawking experience. The paper also shows how considering space, as an approach, can open up our understanding of these hard-to-get-to retailers. Rather than focus on preconceived themes, a historical narrative can follow street sellers through the spaces of their day, starting with their home and closing with when they were lifted from life into art. Also, their place of work, the street, set them apart from other traders. Hawkers both contributed to and were impacted by the space’s materiality, with its traffic, noise and smell, and its conception, in the minds of Londoners. I argue that, by examining hawkers in the spaces in which they worked, we can see more clearly how they were central to the city’s food supply and retail landscape. More than that, they were central to changing ideas of metropolitan life.

 Alex Taylor, University of Sheffield, UK

The dissemination of tobacco in seventeenth-century England, 1625-1685

This paper examines the growth of the tobacco trade in the seventeenth century and how consumers accessed the commodity through importers, distributors and retailers. Focusing largely on the southwest of England, my research uses depositions, trade books and inventories to assess the extent to which tobacco ‘took off’ during the sixty-year period between the dissolution of the Virginia Company and the introduction of the ‘new impost’. Although other reasons complement these about to be given (colonial crop, falling prices, addictive), I suggest three main points in this paper that enabled the widespread distribution, retail and ultimately consumption of tobacco.

First, mariners were important figures, both in constituting a large proportion of importers as well as ‘teaching’ consumers how to smoke. Whilst seafarers’ contribution to distribution networks was not unique to tobacco, the plant’s early arrival into England compared to other new groceries extends the chronology backwards given by Beverly Lemire in her work on sailors after 1660. Second, it was not overly difficult to process tobacco after its arrival. Tools for such work could be relatively rudimental, ultimately resulting in lower production costs and wider participation. Again, ‘cheap’ production methods were not peculiar to tobacco but my analysis of how tobacco was transformed from leaf into a vendible commodity suggests how it was subsequently distributed. Third, tobacco had a low weight:cost ratio. Inventories and depositions show that tobacco was often transported in relatively small, easy-to-handle quantities that furnished multiple consumers. Suppliers were also able to cater for customers’ needs by providing a range of different tobacco varieties, prices and formats.

Ultimately, the combination of these three factors, in conjunction with colonial expansion and falling tobacco prices, facilitated tobacco’s widespread distribution by the middle of the seventeenth century, if not earlier.

Mabel Winter, University of Sheffield, UK

The Case of Thompson & Company: commerce, banking, and politics in the late seventeenth century

This paper intends to outline and discuss the social network of a seventeenth century merchant-bankers joint-stock company. The company was formed of four merchants, who had previously conducted trade in pairs but in 1670 decided to pool their resources and form a joint-stock bank, designed to loan out money at interest. The profits from which would be put into a general bank upon which the merchants could each draw on for their own individual trading ventures, provided they repaid the loaned money with interest. This venture relied on a variety of interpersonal relationships, as well as relationships forged through intermediaries and those forged purely on reputation. However, these relationships were not only commercial in nature, but political, familial, friendly, and conflicting, demonstrating the wide-ranging exploits of the four protagonists. Their wide web of credit, which spread across political, religious, geographical, familial and mercantile boundaries, created a complex and tumultuous situation once the partners went bankrupt in 1677.

The collapse of the bank in 1677 will receive particular attention due to the political manoeuvrings that aided its downfall, including interference from London city government, the East India Company, and even direct relations with the King; with the identification of at least two out of four of the main protagonists as early Whigs adding yet more intrigue to the plot. Set against the backdrop of the financial revolution, the stop on the exchequer, the early formation of party politics and the beginnings of the popish plot, this paper aims to highlight the difficulties and risks involved in early modern commerce, as well as demonstrating the depth and breadth of the relationships required to initiate such a venture. More than any other early banking venture, the bank of Woolchurch Market illuminates the complex intertwining of commercial and political identities in a society experiencing religious and political turmoil, as well as implicating an earlier start date for the English Financial Revolution.

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