Berry Bros and Rudd in St James's, one of the oldest shops in Britain. How has shopping influenced history? See below...
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A Personal Note (Archive)
December 1, 2013
The latest in Christmas shopping milestones seems to be an idea known as Black Friday. Originally this was the Saturday after American Thanksgiving, when retailers would offer discounts to shoppers looking towards Christmas. This idea now seems to have arrived in Britain, with scuffles in Asda resulting. The passions that shopping can release are an indication of how significant shopping has been in the creation of the modern world. The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was driven in many ways by shopping. Because there were things to buy, people wanted to make money to buy them. This drove them to work in the emerging industries, which created things for people to buy. And people used the money they made in the new industrial jobs to buy things that industry created. Shopping and production fed one another. This cycle was particularly likely to gain momentum in Britain due to society being relatively mobile. A mobile society bred snobbery, a desire to emulate the lifestyle of those above in the social chain. Daniel Defoe said in the Complete English Tradesman of 1726:
"While the poorest citizens live like the rich, the rich like the gentry, the gentry like the nobility, and the nobility striving to outshine one another, no wonder all the sumptuary trades increase."
Scuffles in Asda are the latest illustration of the power of shopping.
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Historical news for December
The National Trust is organising Christmas markets at properties all over the country. Go to http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356401640247/ for more information.
The Dickens Festival, with its festive parade and stalls takes place this year on December 7th - 8th in Rochester, Kent. Go to http://www.rochesterdickensfestival.org.uk/news.htm for more details.
Much of what we now know as Christmas was shaped by Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. Why not visit Victoria's home at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. There are events and guided tours through December showing how Victoria and her family spent Christmas. Go to http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/osborne/events
China is prominent in the news at the moment, for its economic gains, and its territorial ambitions in the East China Sea.This month there is an opportunity to explore the art of this ancient civilisation at the Victoria and Albert Museum. More than 700 examples of Chinese painting will be on display, dating from the early eighth, to the late nineteenth centuries. Telephone 020 7942 2000, or go to http://www.vam.ac.uk/
From 21st October a new gallery at the National Maritime Museum opens, exploring the influence of the Royal Navy on British history between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. 250 objects tell the story, with items ranging from an amputation knife to the last letter Nelson wrote to his daughter. Telephone 020 8858 4422 for more information.
Anniversaries for December
4th December 1795: Birth of Thomas Carlyle in Eccelfechan, Scotland. Carlyle would go on to become a philosopher, satirist, essayist, historian and teacher. He famously hoped that his death would be the result of exhaustion rather than boredom.
13th December 1577: Francis Drake leaves Plymouth with a fleet of five ships to sail around the world. In September 1580 one ship would return to Plymouth.
15th December 1907: Richard Crossman is born in Bayswater. Crossman would go on to a successful political career, which became the subject of a diary, so frank and honest that the government tried to block its publication.
20th December 1955: Cardiff was proclaimed the capital of Wales. Wales, an historically diffuse country, had never had a capital city before.
21st December 1910: An explosion at the Hulton Bank Colliery in Lancashire, kills 344 miners, one of the worst mining disasters in British history.
30th December 1460: Nobles loyal to the imprisoned Henry VI trap the army of rival claimant to the throne Richard Duke of York, after he rashly leaves the safety of Sandal Castle near Wakefield. Richard is killed and his army destroyed. Following the Battle of Wakefield, it is left to Richard's son Edward to continue the Yorkist cause in what would later be called the Wars of the Roses.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.