Article

Domestic Production and Consumption

Robert DuPlessis

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0032
Domestic Production and Consumption

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
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In the past several decades, household production and consumption have emerged as important—and usually linked—historical subjects. Much of the scholarship is concerned with societies located around the Atlantic, though only a minority attempts either to organize research within an explicitly Atlantic framework or to discuss more than one area in the basin. More commonly, works focus on these topics within individual political units (regions, states, empires), social groups, or categories of consumer goods. Many studies encompass more than the early modern period (16th–18th centuries). But that era is typically seen as decisive, the 18th century most of all. Then, it is frequently argued, occurred a “consumer revolution” that accompanied or, in some accounts, preceded factory industrialization. Even when no consumer revolution is postulated, moreover, scholars generally agree that fundamental changes took place between about 1500 and about 1800: the wide diffusion of innovative agricultural and manufactured commodities in areas in which they had previously been unknown; the proliferation of new shopping venues and retailing techniques; the participation in household production and consumption of marketed goods by many more and more varied groups than ever before. The exciting scholarship that investigates these themes is multinational and multidisciplinary. Anglophone historians have been particularly attuned to developments in anthropology and cultural studies, their counterparts elsewhere to economics and sociology—though neither “school” is exclusive in its orientation and cross-fertilization is constant. Research into household production and consumption in the past can also be found in works on economic and cultural history. More often, these consumer and material culture histories overlap; though consumption is often defined as the processes and practices of acquiring and using, and material culture as what is acquired and used, in reality the distinctions are difficult to maintain either theoretically or empirically. This means that a multitude of competing concepts, interpretations, and approaches characterize the historical study of consumption and household production, making it a lively and rewarding field.

Article.  10604 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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