Wanting and having

Popular politics and liberal consumerism in England, 1830-70

By Peter Gurney

Wanting and having
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9780719091452
  • Publish Date: Feb 2015
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526101815
  • Publish Date: Nov 2015
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0181-5
    • Published Date: November 2015


    Nineteenth-century England witnessed the birth of capitalist consumerism. Early department stores, shopping arcades and provision shops of all kinds proliferated from the start of the Victorian period, testimony to greater diffusion of consumer goods. However, while the better off enjoyed having more material things, masses of the population were wanting even the basic necessities of life during the 'Hungry Forties' and well beyond. Based on a wealth of contemporary evidence and adopting an interdisciplinary approach, Wanting and having focuses particularly on the making of the working-class consumer in order to shed new light on key areas of major historical interest, including Chartism, the Anti-Corn Law League, the New Poor Law, popular liberalism and humanitarianism. It will appeal to scholars and general readers interested in the origins and significance of consumerism across a range of disciplines, including social and cultural history, literary studies, historical sociology and politics.


    'Consumption and democracy are central to Peter Gurney's compelling study. His claim is that historians of popular politics and historians of consumption have failed to engage deeply with each other, distorting our understanding of Chartism, the Anti-Corn Law League, and Gladstonian liberalism.'
    Brian Lewis, McGill University, Journal of Modern History

    'Excellent new book.Gurney's work is the first to demonstrate that the construction of the consumer was also an important political device from the early nineteenth century.Thoroughly researched and well argued, this book should be on the reading list of everyone with an interest in the history of consumption as well as politics and the poor in Victorian Britain.A strongly argued and original book, well grounded in extensive primary research and a thorough grasp of secondary work in the field. Professional historians and students on the nineteenth-century alike should find it illuminating and engaging.Gurney's ideas have a wider relevance.' Jane Hamlett, Royal Holloway, University of London, Journal of Social History, Volume 50, No 2, Winter 2016

    'The intellectual breadth, the historiographical ambition and the rigorous analytical framework of this volume will ensure that no scholar of the poor law, of Chartism, of the Anti-Corn Law League, or indeed of debates about the consumer and consumption in nineteenth-century Britain, will want to ignore its insights or avoid confronting the challenges it throws down to orthodox readings of nineteenth-century society.'
    Chris Williams, Cardiff University, Social History, June 2016

    'The book willbe essential reading for historians of Chartism, free trade and the poor law inparticular.'
    Henry Miller, The English HistoricalReview


    1. 'A new order of things': mapping popular politics onto consumption
    2. 'Rejoicing in potatoes': the politics of consumption during the 'Hungry Forties'
    3. 'The Andover Cannibalism': popular entitlement and the New Poor Law
    4. 'Yours in the cause of Democracy': democratic discourse and the Chartist challenge
    5. 'Consumers of their own productions': popular radicalism and consumer organising
    6. 'Please, sir, I want some more': Dickens on working-class scarcity and middle-class excess
    7. 'The Sublime of the Bazaar': the religion of free trade and the making of modern consumerism
    8. 'The lion turned into a lamb': the consumer politics of popular liberalism
    Epilogue: 'The Age of Veneer': the limits of liberal consumerism


    Peter Gurney teaches British Social History at the University of Essex

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