Workshop: Doing consumer history: empirical sources and methodological challenges | University of Bern, 3-4 May 2019

Roberto Zaugg's picture


Doing consumer history

Empirical sources and methodological challenges

University of Bern, Institute of History, 3-4 May 2019



Riccardo E. Rossi (Bern):

Roberto Zaugg (Bern):

Organised by the SNF-Project Atlantic Italies: Economic and Cultural Entanglements, 15th-19th Centuries



Universität Bern

Unitobler - Lerchenweg 36

room F013

3012 Bern




During the early modern era, the intensified circulation of goods catalyzed 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 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 analyzing the change and persistence of consumer patterns is a challenging endeavor. 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 address

11:15 Coffee break

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

Session 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

13:00 Kim Siebenhüner - Jena: Conclusions

13:00 End