Material Culture in Seventeenth-Century ‘Britain’: The Matter of Domestic Consumption

Sara Pennell

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Material Culture in Seventeenth-Century ‘Britain’: The Matter of Domestic Consumption


This article focuses on three issues: the historiographies which have made the period prior to that in which Neil McKendrick confidently told us a ‘consumer revolution’ occurred both a necessary staging post en route to revolution and a prelapsarian era in striking contrast to it; the relative absence of ‘mundane materiality’ within these accounts; and consumption as a matter of practice, rather than as an abstract phenomenon in the ‘long’ seventeenth century in Britain (c .1600–1720). In this, it follows Joan Thirsk in her important 1975 Oxford University Ford Lectures, in accepting Jacobean and Stuart Britain (or at least England) as very much concerned with production for the ends of domestic consumption, in both senses of the word ‘domestic’. Through the case studies of objects very rarely found in public museum displays thanks to their ‘everyday’ qualities, the article then argues for a re-evaluation of non-elite consumption within the domestic sphere as significant within any story we might wish to tell of changing consumption practices and material culture in Britain across the seventeenth century.

Keywords: Britain; domestic consumption; material culture; historiographies; Neil McKendrick; consumer revolution; Joan Thirsk; mundane materiality

Article.  10419 words. 

Subjects: History ; British History

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