Retail Realms Symposium

Shops, Shoppers and Shopping in Eighteenth-Century Britain, C.1680-1830

The long eighteenth century was a transformative age for shops and shopping in Britain. Far-reaching changes took place in the way people shopped, the things they bought, the shops themselves and the ways in which they were run. For an increasing portion of Georgian ‘polite society’, shopping, from being primarily a matter of obtaining the necessities of life, became a pleasurable leisure activity in its own right, associated with sociability, sensory experience and the expression of identity. Many historians who have explored the social and cultural dynamics of shopping in the eighteenth century have argued that this period saw a ‘consumer revolution’.

The Georgian shopping experience was not just a social or economic process. Located in shops, showrooms and high streets, it extended to the assembly rooms and drawing rooms of polite society. It encompassed the way goods were packaged and advertised, included the strategic developments in shop design and was a contributing factor in the progressive refashioning of the urban environment. Indeed, the retail realm, as this symposium will examine, was a vital element in the physical reshaping of eighteenth-century British life.

Retail Realms: Shops, shoppers and shopping in eighteenth-century Britain (the third annual Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies) will bring together research and material from museum professionals, academics, independent scholars and those with an interest in retail history or passion for Georgian studies. Linked to the museum’s exhibition Consuming Passions, the two-day conference will be focused around the core themes of consumerism, consumption and shopping in the long eighteenth century.



Day 1: Thursday 22 October

Registration: 9.30-10.00am; Conference starts: 10.00am; Conference ends: 4.45pm with drinks reception to follow at 5.30pm; Conference dinner: 7.00pm

Day 2: Friday 23 October

Registration: 9.30-10.00am; Conference starts: 10.00am (includes afternoon walking tour of York’s Georgian Retail Realm), Conference ends: 4.45pm


VENUE: York Hilton Hotel and Fairfax House



Professor Helen Berry (Professor of British History, Newcastle University)

Vanessa Brett (Author of Bertrand’s Toyshop in Bath: Luxury Retailing 1685–1765)


Please email fairfaxhousesymposium@gmail.com for any queries or to seek further information.

Download our Symposium Booking Form to register for this event.

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Thursday 22 Oct 2015
until Friday 23 Oct 2015


Hilton Hotel, York and Fairfax House

Two-day earlybird rate £95.00

Friends of Fairfax House