The consumer and consumption in South Westmorland, circa 1700 to 1750: a Yeoman family's possessions and acquisitions

McGhie, Linda (2002) The consumer and consumption in South Westmorland, circa 1700 to 1750: a Yeoman family's possessions and acquisitions. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The central focus of this thesis is the early-eighteenth century consumer in south Westmorland, and his possessions and acquisitions. It is based on a family case study of the Brownes, a yeoman family of Troutbeck, a scattered township situated in south Westmorland. Benjamin Browne (1664-1748) is central, because he amassed a wealth of documentation which allows extraordinary insights into his life and that of his family and neighbours during the early-eighteenth century. Unusually, Townend, the family's home for over four hundred years, and much of the furniture inside, has survived too.
Debates surrounding consumer behaviour and material culture have focused upon fmding the first recorded appearance of certain new items across regions of the country, in probate inventories. It is now clear that understanding consumer behaviour involves more than counting the goods held at death, with lifecycle and regional influences playing a crucial part. Using these documents, the house and the extant possessions, we gain a more complete picture of the consumer, understanding behaviour in relation to life, not as an abstract activity as it is so often portrayed.
Consumption emerges as the result of an assembly of strategies: new, second-hand, vernacular, metropolitan, investment, inheritance, ownership and use-rights. These strategies were affected by externally defmed influences with a distinct regional flavour, including budget, opportunity, market-location, life-cycle, inheritance customs and tenancy. This led to community 'norms' of function, taste and status, and we see that consumption was not about the single purchases of individual people, but about social context.

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