‘A new order of things’
Mapping popular politics onto consumption
in Wanting and having
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The field of nineteenth-century popular politics has attracted generations of historians, constituting the empirical terrain on which many important methodological and theoretical breakthroughs have been made. Cultural historians have taught us a great deal about middle-class consumption practices, focusing particularly on the impact of more spectacular forms like department stores, but they have tended not to pursue links between politics and consumption. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book foregrounds particularly the contested and uneven development of the working-class consumer in England between the First and Second Reform Acts. It argues that popular liberalism depended for its success to a hitherto unacknowledged extent on what we might call liberal consumerism. The book concerns how middle- and working-class consumers were configured and mobilised by popular political movements during a crucial period of capitalist transition.

Wanting and having

Popular politics and liberal consumerism in England, 1830–70

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