CALL FOR PAPERS: Global Consumption in European Cities (1500–1850)

EAUH (European Association for Urban History), 13th International Conference on Urban History, Helsinki/Finland, August 24-27, 2016

Coat-detailCoat, Netherlands, mid-18th century Textile: India. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Isabel Shults Fund, 2012

Over the last three decades, consumption has become a major topic of scholarly investigation. Both within the social sciences and humanities, it is a booming field. Historically, much light has been shed on the eighteenth century as a period of a ‘consumer revolution’ or a ‘birth of a consumer society’, as people began to accumulate more and more consumer goods and personal possessions. In discussing these changes, scholars have highlighted the role that global goods (cotton textiles, cocoa, tea, tobacco, indigo, gum arabic, etc), and the growing consumer demand for them, played in spurring these changes.

As stimulating as this research has been, most of it has been confined to developments in Colonial America, England, France, and the Low Countries. Within Europe, these studies have often concentrated on metropolises such as London, Paris, or Amsterdam – cities at the forefront of these changes. How, when, and whether similar developments played out in other European, or global, urban communities remains under researched. Our goal with this session is to explore changes in consumption practices and the development of consumer societies in other European cities. With such an approach, we hope to cast these developments in a more holistic light, and bring a pan-European focus to the idea of an eighteenth-century consumer revolution.

In particular, we are interested in themes and questions such as:

• Consumption patterns in Southern, Central, Northern, or Eastern European cities. Which elements of a ‘consumer society’ can be detected in these regions? Did changes in consumption patterns occur, and if so, when? What were people consuming? Which ‘global’ goods found resonance in these cities? How wide-spread through society were these changing consumption patterns?

• Comparative work between European cities. What kind of comparisons in consumption patterns can be drawn between Western European cities and Southern, Central, Northern, or Eastern European cities? Temporally how did consumption patterns vary between other European urban communities?

• Broader issues surrounding consumption. What role did urban areas play in these changes? What role did laws (eg. sumptuary legislation) play in changing consumption patterns? How are changes to consumption related to broader social, legal, economic, and political developments?

Session organisers:
John Jordan, University of Bern, Switzerland
Paula Hohti, Aalto University of Art and Design, Finland
Jutta Wimmler, European-University Viadrina, Germany

To send your abstract, please register at