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Queen Mary Panel at BSECS 2011

January 1, 2011


The Cultural Construction of Commercial Space

Jenn Chenkin, Anna Kretschmer and Dr Richard Coulton will be presenting papers in the panel chaired by Prof Markman Ellis at BSECS 2011 at St Hugh’s College, Oxford on the 7th of January,

This panel presents papers examining the cultural construction of commercial spaces in eighteenth century London. The eighteenth century ‘consumer revolution’ was predicated on innovations in strategies for presenting and marketing goods and services, including advertising and display. The panel examines the space of the shop in cultural productions in the period, examining how commerce engendered a hybrid space that offered exciting and disturbing mixing between gender and status categories and interests, constructing the shop floor as a zone for interchange of information and knowledge as much as goods and services.

Jennifer Chenkin (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘The Art of Sinking in Books: bookshops and booksellers in eighteenth-century satire’

This paper surveys the representation of the bookshop and the bookseller in minor eighteenth century satires written in the wake of Pope’s The Dunciad between 1730 and 1760. The paper examines satires by Gay, Fielding, Samuel Derrick and Elizabeth Montagu, exploring the deployment of the bookseller in diverse satiric modes, including ‘characters’ and Lucianic dialogues. The bookseller’s relation to the fraught connection between commerce and culture, especially in the hybridized space of the bookshop, forms a focus.

Anna Kretschmer (QMUL), ‘Women, sociability and the milliner’s shop’

This paper presents research into the representation of sociability in milliner’s shops in eighteenth century London, arguing that the shop floor is divided into two spaces, a public space at the front, and a more intimate back parlour closed to the public but open to view. The paper examines visual representations of these dichotomized spaces in trade cards and satirical prints of milliner’s shops, and compares that with the use of front and back space in O’Keefe’s The Man Milliner, performed at Covent Garden in 1787, and Fanny Burney’s The Witlings (1778) as well as further literary examples from the period.

Richard Coulton (QMUL), ‘Curiosity, Commerce, and Conversation in the early eighteenth century commercial nursery-garden’.

This paper examines the emergence of a new commercial space for the sale of plant specimens, the nursery garden, in the early eighteenth century. It describes the rise of commercial nursery-gardening during the second-half of the seventeenth century, paying attention principally to the backgrounds of early-nurserymen (many of whom enjoyed royal or aristocratic patronage), but also to the geographical distribution of prominent nursery-grounds (which conventionally occupied sites around the perimeter of London). It goes on to examine the interdependent business, botanical, and social practices of an individual metropolitan nurseryman, Thomas Fairchild of Hoxton. It explains how Fairchild’s chief publication The City Gardener (1722) represents the nursery-ground as a seed-bed for sociability, aesthetics, and knowledge (as well as for commercial gain); and will indicate what Fairchild’s public incursions (during the 1720s) within the relatively rarefied social and intellectual climate of the Royal Society reveal about the possibilities and limits of nursery-gardening within eighteenth-century London. Indeed, Fairchild’s remarkable cultural transactions with gentlemen of a markedly higher status enabled the two parties respectively to renegotiate their stocks of social and of natural-philosophical credit: just one instance of the manner in which the nursery – discursively, practically, spatially – functioned in the period as a distinct and compelling locus of curiosity, commerce, and conversation.

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