FAIRFAX HOUSE SYMPOSIUM IN GEORGIAN STUDIES 2015

Retail Realms:  Shops, shoppers and shopping in eighteenth-century Britain, c.1680-1830

THURSDAY 22 AND FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER 2015
AT THE YORK HILTON HOTEL AND FAIRFAX HOUSE

The eighteenth century was a transformative age for shops and shopping in Britain. Between the late seventeenth and the early nineteenth centuries far-reaching changes took place in the ways people shopped, the things they bought, the shops themselves and the ways in which they were run, and the systems of distribution and marketing which made possible the shopping experience.

For an increasing portion of Georgian ‘polite society’, shopping, from being primarily a matter of obtaining the necessities of life, became a pleasurable leisure activity in its own right, associated with sociability, sensory experience, the fashioning of selfhood and the expression of individual and collective identities. Many historians who have explored the social and cultural dynamics of shopping in the eighteenth century have argued that this period saw a ‘consumer revolution’.

Theorisations of eighteenth-century consumerism, however, tend to overlook or disregard the materiality and spatiality of the shopping experience: the Georgian retail realm was not just a social or economic process but a place, located in shops, showrooms, markets and high streets, and extending into the assembly rooms and drawing rooms, and indeed the bedrooms and dressing rooms, of polite society. From the packaging of goods and the display of signs and labels, print advertising and the design of shops, to the increasing prominence of shops in towns and cities and the refashioning of the urban environment around the shopping experience, the retail realm was an increasingly important factor in the physical reshaping of eighteenth-century British life.

This symposium, the third Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies, aims to bring together interested parties from curatorial, conservation, academic and other backgrounds with an interest in the history of shops and shopping to explore the nature and significance of the retail realm in the long eighteenth century. The symposium, which is taking place over two days, will be organised around five broad themes:

• A consumer revolution? The development and transformation of the retail realm in the long eighteenth century.
• Shopping outside the shop. Publicity, marketing, the retail realm interacting with the urban, rural and domestic realms.
• Shopping inside the shop. The design, layout and furnishing of shops, the display of goods, the management of the shopping experience.
• The shopper’s realm. Shopping as a fashionable/leisure pursuit and a social activity, the sensory/haptic dimensions of shopping.
• The retailer’s realm. How retailers perceived shopping and shoppers, new retail arenas and models, the materiality of the retail business.

Proposals are invited for symposium contributions not exceeding 20 minutes in length addressing one or more of the themes identified above. Please send outlines of around 200 words, accompanied by a brief one-paragraph biography, to fairfaxhousesymposium@gmail.com by Friday 31 July 2015. Any queries about the symposium should be sent to the same email address.

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