The choice of products available to the modern consumer has never been so varied and at the click of a button we can have whatever we desire delivered to our doorstep… From online stores, to the most prestigious shopping destinations in the world we are consuming from a vast array of destinations, with global products easily accessible and on speed dial…
But where did this all begin? Some would say the roots of our consumer heaven were laid down thousands of years ago. And I can imagine cave-man trading food for spears and hides for shelter. More recently, however the Georgians certainly had a big part to play… Some 300 years ago Britain was experiencing an economic boom and huge prosperity. It was a time of heady industrial growth and international trade under four consecutive Kings, all named George. An absorbing new exhibition at the British Library, with over 200 exhibits illustrates the ‘Gorgeous Georgians’ love for consuming well.
During this period London began a radical transformation and changed from being a dangerous, dim and murky place to the embryonic city we are more familiar with today. Streets were lit, pavements raised and shops began to spring up along most major roads; Oxford Street, Kensington High Street and Piccadilly all developed during this time, showcasing inspiring products now available to the new-monied middle class. Dazzling emporiums began a roaring trade in fabrics for clothing and furnishings, fine porcelain from the East Indies for fashionable tea parties was sold at Josiah Wedgewood’s Pall Mall store… Furniture began to be made to order from pattern books, the first catalogues; through the likes of Thomas Chippendale and state of the art wallpapers replaced dated and expensive silk and tapestry hangings.
The aspiring middle class now accounted for a third of the population and they wanted to showcase their new-found wealth through their choice of fashion and furniture. London became a hub for social mobility, as the middle class was able to emulate the upper class, to mingle and mix with, and even marry the aristocracy.
Catch this interesting new exhibition at the British Library that showcases the Georgians keen appetite for shopping:
* Georgians Revealed: Life, style and the making of modern Britain, runs until March 11th 2014 at the British Library.