in Cheap Street
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This chapter moves from legal to economic informality, analysing the things bought and sold in the London street markets, and examining their role in feeding and supplying the growing city from the middle of the nineteenth century until the outbreak of the Second World War. It investigates the mechanisms by which a substantial proportion of the food brought to the city found its way to consumers via the informal economy of street selling, and it examines how non-food goods sold in the London street markets were sourced within London’s producer economy. It argues that the informality of the street markets was closely aligned with London’s complex and dynamic networks of small-scale, workshop-based manufacture, characterised by economic historians as ‘flexible specialisation’. Price and quality are key themes that run through the chapter.

Cheap Street

London’s street markets and the cultures of informality, c. 1850–1939



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