chapter  2
25 Pages

The development of a consuming culture

The urban freemen and their families, as distinct from the feudal lords and the Church, were acutely aware of the need to respond to changing social conditions, and of the developing importance of the home. The changes in consumption patterns, due in part to changes in social competition and status, encouraged the purchase of novel goods, and hastened the search for separation and personal 'comfort'. More people began acquiring goods, using services, and engaging in social, recreational and educational activities that went far beyond meeting or improving basic physical needs. The divergences continued as the influences of a growing gentility, education and culture took effect as self-fulfilling markers of distinction. In any particular locality, there was often originally a generally shared material culture, but by the seventeenth century, some people might have possessed more cultural and material affinity with families many miles away, rather than with their own neighbours.