A Foot in the Past: Consumers, Producers and Footwear in the Long Eighteenth Century

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Pasold Research Fund/Oxford University Press, 2006 - History - 302 pages
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A Foot in the Past analyses how footwear was consumed, retailed and produced in the eighteenth century. How many shoes were consumed? Who wore them? And what did the wearing of shoes mean in a society where part of the population walked barefoot? The book replies to such questions by showing how the increasing availability of boots, shoes and slippers in the eighteenth century was matched by profound changes in the way footwear was sold by shoe sellers and purchased by customers. By themid-eighteenth century large shops provided a wide array of types, sizes and shapes of footwear from high-class lustrous boots to cheap shoes with nailed soles. Shoemaking, however, remained during the eighteenth and for most of the nineteenth century one of the most 'traditional' sectors of British and continental economies. The fact that mechanization and industrialization affected boot and shoemaking only after 1850 is not exceptional. The production of most consumer goods remained dominated by small-scale urban manufacturing in which the application of machinery played little part in either increasing productivity or changing the shape and quality of products. This book argues that the social and economic practices in the consumption of footwear are fundamental for understanding how such garments were produced and sold. Rather than embracing a vision of economic development based on mechanization and industrialization, this book investigates how social and cultural contexts forconsumption shaped the way in which consumers' needs were satisfied. These lines of enquiry are developed through a comparative analysis of British and French histories based upon primary and secondary sources and a wide-ranging survey of the literature on dress and fashion in the eighteenth century. Volumes 1 to 13 in Pasold Studies in Textile History series may be ordered from www.maney.co.uk

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Demand and Consumption
Innovation and Tradition
Shops and Shopping

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About the author (2006)

Giorgio Riello is Research Officer in Global History at the London School of Economics where he is co-ordinating a research project entitled 'A Global History of Cotton Textiles, 1200-1800'. He has published on fashion, material culture and product innovation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He is currently editing with Peter McNeil a collection of essays entitled Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers (Oxford: Berg, forthcoming 2006).

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