Workshop «Doing consumer history. Empirical sources and methodological challenges»

University of Bern, 3-4 May 2019

Convenors: Riccardo E. Rossi and Roberto Zaugg

Venue: Unitobler – Lerchenweg 36 – room: F013

Download the programme

During the early modern era, the intensified intercontinental circulation of goods catalysed by the development of oceanic trade routes fuelled new consumer needs and an increasing differentiation of material culture. Scholarship has investigated the use and appropriation of exogenous goods, intellectual debates and changing attitudes concerning ‘luxury’ as well as the emergence of new forms of sociability related to specific consumer practices. The eighteenth century, in particular, has been identified – by scholars dealing primarily with north-western Europe – as an era of a ‘consumer revolution’ and technological innovation that resulted in a substantially augmented access to delectable goods by ordinary people.

What commodities were consumed by which social groups? How fast did new patterns of consumption evolve? To what extent were lower social strata and rural areas involved in these processes? Which goods remained exclusive and which became popular? How did information on new commodities spread and how did changing consumer habits influence material culture and aesthetical styles? Measuring and analysing the change and persistence of consumer patterns is a challenging endeavour. Our workshop will tackle these questions, discussing empirical sources and methodological approaches we can use as historians when we deal with consumption in past societies.

Friday 3 May 2019

Session 1

9.15 Roberto Zaugg (Bern): Welcome adress

9.45 Jon Stobart (Manchester): Sugar and spice, coffee and calico. Selling and owning colonial goods in the English villages, c. 1660-1760

10:30 Jon Mathieu (Luzern): Discussion

11.15 Coffee break

Sessions 2 – chair: Roberto Zaugg

11:45 Alida Clemente (Foggia): Is it all about methodology? Inventories, real wages, and the narratives of the consumer revolution

12:30 Valentin Groebner (Luzern): Discussion

13.15 Lunch

Session 3 – chair: Christiane Berth

14:30 Susanna Burghartz, Ina Serif, Anna Reimann (Basel): Printed markets. Information, data, and news in the Basel „Avis-Blatt“, 1729-1845

15:30 Discussion 

16.15 Coffee break

Session 4 – chair: Riccardo E. Rossi

16:45 Noémie Étienne, Claire Brizon, Chonja Lee, Étienne Wismer (Bern): Looking, touching, unfolding. Understanding material culture through qualitative analysis

17:45 Discussion

18:30 End

Saturday 4 May 2019

Session 5 – chair: Eva Dal Canto

9:15 Claudia Ravazzolo (Jena): Balancing quantity and quality. Analysing material culture in Bernese bankruptcy inventories (1660-1798)

9:45 Mattia Viale (Milano): Searching for actual patterns of consumption in early modern period. The role of household budgets 

10:15 Discussion

11.00 Coffee break

Session 6 – chair: Christian Windler

11:30 Riccardo E. Rossi (Bern): Serial data from the Alps? Potentials and problems of post-mortem inventories from the Italian-speaking valleys of the Three Leagues, 1650-1850

12:00 Discussion

12.30 Kim Siebenhüner (Jena): Conclusions

13.00 End

Contact address

Riccardo E. Rossi
Historisches Institut der Universität Bern
Länggassstrasse 49 – 3012 Bern (Schweiz)

riccardo.rossi@hist.unibe.ch