Consumerism and the World of Goods in Early British America
This seminar is an exploration of material culture in the colonial, revolutionary, and antebellum periods. It will explore the English background before moving on to tracing the transition from production to consumption in early America. It will examine how the ability of capitalism to shape taste, fashion, architecture, material culture, and even manners led to “a refinement of America.” It will explore the meaning of consumption to both the genteel and ordinary folk, the purposes that consumption served, and the systems of value in which consumption was embedded. It will also study how consumerism created as well as reflected moral ideologies and political attitudes as old structures were first subverted and then radically modified.