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Retail revolution and the village shop, c . 1660-1860

Stobart, J and Bailey, L (2017) Retail revolution and the village shop, c . 1660-1860. The Economic History Review, 71 (2). pp. 393-417. ISSN 0013-0117


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Village shops have been largely overlooked in the recent literature on British retailing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which has sought to redefine the parameters and timing of retail transformation. While urban shops have been explored in detail, often in ways that highlight their role in a parallel transformation in consumption patterns, little attempt has been made to look inside village shops or examine the character and practices of rural retailers. This article addresses this lacuna and offers fresh insights into the shifting position of village shops in these broader economic, business, and social changes. Taking a long view of the period c. 1660–1860, it draws on a wide range of sources to examine the stock sold and the degree of specialization exhibited by village shops, and the changing trading practices of village shopkeepers, including the provision of credit, the pricing of goods, and marketing activities. In doing so, the article highlights both long-term continuities and important innovations of the type that also characterize urban shops, and argues that village shops, while central to rural social and economic networks, were also intimately bound into broader retail systems.

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