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Gender and Consumption

Session Leader


  1. In what ways is the eighteenth-century culture of consumption gendered? How are changing notions of masculinity and femininity demonstrated by the culture of consumption? Explore these questions with reference to the seminar primary source materials.
  2. Consider the implications of a ‘culture-consuming’ public in this period. What are its characteristics?
  3. What is the role of the government and the state? Are women able to participate in the politics of cultural consumption?
  4. Assess the importance of gender and the politics of consumption by looking at a particular commodity (examples might be alcohol, clothes, luxury goods, sugar, slaves etc). Do such commodities enhance or subvert the existing social order?


  • Ann Bermingham and John Brewer (eds), The consumption of culture, 1600-1800: image, object, text (1997) especially chapters by Lovell, Wilson, Klein and Bermingham
  • Martin J. Daunton and Matthew Hilton (eds), The politics of consumption: material culture and citizenship in Europe and America (2001), especially chapters 1 and 2
  • V de Grazia and E Furlough (eds), The sex of things: gender and consumption in historical perspective (1996), especially Part I: Changing consumption regimes

Primary Sources

Further Reading

  • Christopher Berry, The Idea of Luxury (1994)
  • John Brewer and Roy Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods (1993)
  • John Brewer, ‘Commercialisation and politics’, in N. McKendrick, J. Brewer and J. H. Plumb, The birth of a consumer society: the commercialisation of eighteenth-century England (1982)
  • P. K. O’Brien, T. Griffiths and P. Hunt, ‘Political components of the industrial revolution: parliament and the English cotton industry, 1660-1774,’ Economic History review, 44 (1991)
  • K. Davies, ‘A moral purchase: femininity, commerce, abolition, 1788-1792’, in E. Eger and C. Grant (eds), Women, Writing and the Public Sphere, 1700-1830 (2001)
  • S. Gunn, ‘The public sphere, modernity and consumption: new perspectives on the history of the English middle class’, in A Kidd and D Nicholls (eds), Gender, Civic Culture and Consumerism: Middle-class identity in Britain, 1800-1940 (1999)
  • Padhraig Higgins, ‘Consumption, gender and the politics of ‘free trade’ in eighteenth-century Ireland’, Eighteenth Century Studies, 41 (2007)
  • Robert Jones, Gender and the Formation of Taste in Eighteenth-century Britain (1998)
  • Claire Midgley, Women against Slavery: The British Campaigns, 1780-1870 (1992)
  • Amanda Vickery, The Gentleman’s Daughter (1999)