AbstractDisregard for the everyday and the ordinary often leads to unwarranted neglect. This for many decades was the fate of shop retailing in terms of historical investigation and even intellectual debate. Yet, more recently research concerned with identifying the emergence of a consumer society has stimulated interest in the development of the retail sector in terms of the timing of growth and the extent of change. Within this context this thesis investigates the structure and organisation of shop retailing, and the gender of shop retailers in two contrasting communities: Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton 1660-1900. The aims of this research are twofold. First it will be demonstrated that a longitudinal perspective is not only possible but also imperative in determining the nature of short-term change in the retail sector. Diverse sources are used comparatively to address the conceptual and methodological difficulties, which have previously hindered analyses of existing research. A numerical analysis of the number of shops, trades within shops, specialist nature and scale of shops indicates that the move towards a modem system of retailing was determined as much by factors of demand as changes in supply. An evaluation has also been made of the impact of retail change on the gender of shop owners, employers and employees. Throughout the period men owned-more shops, employed more shop workers and had access to more trades than women. Yet, by 1900 they served apprenticeships less often, were less likely to become shop owners than two centuries earlier and faced increasing competition for employment in large-scale drapery stores. The pattern was somewhat reversed for women. With the exception of the millinery trades women only became shop owners c1700 when they were widowed. In this capacity they were not restricted regarding the trades they could enter. Single women rarely owned shops and had no access to the great majority of trades. By c1900 single, married and widowed women owned shops but are found in a limited number of trades. This study shows that not only is it possible to adopt a longitudinal framework but also necessary if the extent and pace of change recorded for the nineteenth century is to be accurately assessed. Thus it has been possible to determine that despite the move to modernity, and this was more incremental than rapid, most shops were still owner or family run, small rather than large-scale and with the exception of one or two trades the province of male ownership and male labour.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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