This is a detailed study of the material lives of the middle classes in the pre-industrial era, a period which saw considerable growth in consumption. Lorna Weatherill has brought her highly important survey up-to-date in the light of new research. She provides a new introduction and bibliography, taking account of the latest academic writing and methodological advances, including computing, and offers further conclusions about her work and its place in current literature.
Three main types of documentation are used to construct the overall picture: diaries, household accounts, and probate inventories. In investigating these sources she interprets the social meaning of material goods; and then goes on to relate this evidence to the social structures of Britain by wealth, status and locality.
Breaking new ground in focusing on households and the use of probate inventories, Weatherill has provided a book which gives both a general account of the domestic environment of the period, and a scholarly analysis of the data on consumption patterns.
'This is a very worthy piece of necessary … research into what people in the middle ranks of English society at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries owned and consumed in eight parts of rural and urban England … Dr Weatherill provides most valuable empirical evidence, not only about what people consumed, but for wider historical debates … This is a good book which definitely demonstrates rising consumer expenditure, especially on household goods, in the early 18th century.' - Times Higher Education Supplement
'Weatherill has profoundly altered the received history of consumerism.' - Institute of Historical Research
'Weatherill's expert knowledge of the pottery trades places her in an especially strong position to explore the minutiae of changes in domestic equipment through time … her catalogue of gains (in material prosperity) is impressively detailed, easily sufficient to substantiate her hypothesis of better objective living standards.' - Reviews
'This is a book which deserves attention. It is a neat and well-argued contribution to debates on social and cultural values, the standard of living and the origins of consumer society, treating material possessions as a subtle indicator of perceived social status. There is much here for economic and social historian to ponder.' - Scottish Economic and Social History.