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Rachael Morton

I am a final year PhD student, supervised by Professor Giorgio Riello and funded by the AHRC.

My thesis is provisionally titled: The Making and Possessing of Quality: The Metalware Trades in England, c.1675-1785.

For more about my personal development please see here.

My Research

My thesis investigates how quality was defined in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and who defined it. I question to what extent definitions of quality focused upon materials, workmanship or aesthetics. In particular, my thesis focuses upon the metalware trade and the small consumer goods or 'toys' that were made using an array of metals, alloys and plating techniques. During this time, quality was debated and re-defined in response to the emergence of new products, as well as new centres of production in Birmingham and Sheffield, and an increasing range of goods for a wider consumer market.

My thesis will be structured around a commodity-chain approach, considering how quality was defined and understood at different stages, starting from the production of metal goods to their dissemination, retail and consumption. I highlight a number of factors that influenced the definition of quality, such as the regulation of metal goods by the guilds and state, the emergence of branding and advertising, and the impact of competition on a local, national and international stage.

My main areas of interest include:

  • Material culture
  • Object life-cycle
  • Possession and ownership
  • The regulation of production
  • Reputation and consumer perceptions of production


"Perceptions of production and the retailing and marketing of quality metalware in eighteenth-century England," History of Retailing and Consumption 2/2 (2016): 143-163.

Review of "Concepts of Value in European Material Culture, 1500-1900. Bert De Munck and Dries Lyna (eds.)," Journal of Design History 29/2 (2016): 200-202.

"Controlling Quality, Producers and their Products: Regulation and Reputation in the English Metalware Trade, c.1760-74," Economic History Society Conference Booklet (2015).


2013 – 2016: University of Warwick, PhD History

2012 – 2013: University of York, MA (Hons) Renaissance and Early Modern Studies

2009 – 2012: University of York, BA (Hons) English and History

Grants and Awards

2016: British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Conference Bursary

2015: Economic History Society Annual Conference Bursary

2014: Economic History Society Residential Course Bursary

2013 – 2016: AHRC Doctoral Award

2012: Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies Bursary


Rachael Morton

R dot Morton at warwick dot ac dot uk

Co-Conveynor of the Material Culture and Commodities Reading Group