Whilst there has been much recent scholarly work on retailing during the early modern period, less is known about how people at the time perceived retailing, both as onlookers, artists and commentators, and as participants.
Centred on the general theme of perceptions, the authors address this gap in our knowledge by looking at a different aspect of consumption.
They focus on two ancillary themes: the first is location and how contemporaries perceived the settlements in which there were shops; the other is distance. Pictures, prints, novels, diaries and promotional literature of the tradespeople themselves provide much of the evidence.
Many of these sources are not new to historians, but they have not been scrutinized and analysed with the questions in mind that are posed here.
The methodology to be employed has been developed by Nancy Cox over the last decade, and is used successfully in her book The Complete Tradesman and in the compilation of the forthcoming Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1800. This book will find a ready market with scholars concerned with British social and economic history in the early modern period.
Although it is first and foremost a book written by historians for historians, it nevertheless borrows concepts and approaches from various disciplines concerned with theories of consumption, material culture and representational art.