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The Birth of a Modern Consumer Society

Seminar Questions:

  • How would you define a consumer society?

  • What explains the rise of consumerism in France in the latter half of the nineteenth century?

  • To what extent had France become a mass consumer society by 1914? To what extent was it a bourgeois development?

  • What was the relationship between gender and consumerism?

Core reading:

  • N Green, 'Art and Industry: The Language of Modernisation in the Production of Fashion,' French Historical Studies (1994), 18: 3, p. 722-748 [electronic resource]
  • P Nord, The Republican Moment, chp 7 'The New Painting' (1995)
  • G Shaya, ‘The Flâneur, the Baudaud and the Making of a Mass Public in France, circa 1860-1910,’ American Historical Review 109 (Feb 2004), 41-77 [electronci resource]
  • L Tiersten, Marianne in the Market: Envisioning Consumer Culture in Fin-de-Siècle France (2001), chapter 1 [Digitized book extract]
  • Background: Popkin, History of Modern France, chps. 19 and 21.

Further reading:


  • R Williams Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in late Nineteenth-Century France (1982)

  • Gildea, Children of the Revolution (2008), chap 14

  • Magraw, France, 1800-1914 (2002), chap 8

Making, Consuming and Advertising

  • M Miller The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store (1981)
  • G Crossick/ S Jaumin (eds) Cathedrals of Consumption: The European Department Store 1850-1939 (1999)
  • L Auslander, ‘The Gendering of Consumer Practice in 19th-Century France’ in V de Grazia and E Furlough (eds) The Sex of Things : Essays on Gender and Consumption (1996), 79-112
  • W Walton, France at the Crystal Palace: Bourgeois Taste and Artisan Manufacture in the 19th-Century (1992)
  • L Auslander Taste and Power: Furnishing Modern France (1996), chaps 8-10
  • K Guy, ‘“Oiling the Wheels of Social Life”: Myths and Marketing in Champagne during the Belle Epoque,’ French Historical Studies, 22:2 (1999), 211-39
  • J Coffin ‘Credit, Consumption, and Images of Women’s Desire: Selling the Sewing machine in Late Nineteenth-Century France’ French Historical Studies 18:3 (1994) 749-83
  • W Walton, ‘To Triumph before Feminine Taste’ : Bourgeois women’s Consumption and Hand Methods of Production' Business History Rreview (1986)
  • P Perrot, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the 19th Century (1994)
  • E Furlough, Consumer Cooperation in France: The Politics of Consumption 1834-1930 (1991)
  • P Nord, Paris Shopkeepers and the Politics of Resentment (1986)
  • M.-E. Chessel, ‘Women and the Ethics of Consumption in France’ in F. Trentmann (ed). The Making of the Consumer (2005)
  • P O’Brien, 'The Kleptomania Diagnosis: Bourgeois Women and Theft,' Journal of Social History (1983)
  • S Harp, Marketing Michelin (2001), chaps 1-2

Mass culture

  • R Magraw Producing , Retailing, Consuming: France 1830-70 in B Rigby (ed) French Literature , Thought and Culture in the 19th-Century : A Material World (1993)

  • R Holt, ‘Social history and Bourgeois Culture in 19th-Century France,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 27/4 (1985) 713-26
  • R Bowlby, Just Looking: Consumer Culture in Dreiser ,Gitting and Zola (1985)

  • V Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris (1999)

  • H. Hazel Hahn, Scenes of Parisian Modernity (2009)
  • V Schwartz, ‘Museums and Mass Spectacle: The Musee Grevin as a Monument to Modern Life,’ French Historical Studies 19:1 (1995), 7-26.

  • A Levin, 'Democratic Vistas/ Democratic Media :Defining a Role for Printed Images in Industrial France,' French Historical Studies (1993)

  • P Mainardi, Art and Politics in the Second Empire: The Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1867 (1987)

  • P Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World World Fairs 1851-1939 (1988)

  • D Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de -Siècle France: Politics, Psychology and Style (1989)

  • C Rearick, Pleasures of the Belle Epoque (1985)