Abstracts - CHORD WORKSHOP Distribution: Historical Perspectives, c. 1400-2000, Thursday 7 April 2011


14.00 - 14.30 John Hinks, University of Leicester, 'The Early Book Trade in England: Centres, Peripheries and Networks'

Following the spread of the new technology of printing through Europe in the late fifteenth century, the sixteenth century saw both the production and distribution of printed books emerging as complementary trades. Bookselling developed in a variety of ways in different local situations, sometimes (but by no means always) continuing the older trade of stationers selling manuscript books. In some places printer-booksellers became the norm but elsewhere production and distribution developed as separate trades. Although England lagged behind some parts of mainland Europe in terms of book trade development, it did tend to follow the continental pattern of a few towns emerging as key centres of both production and distribution: mainly London, plus the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge and, to some extent, York. This paper will argue that the rest of the country beyond these centres should not be dismissed as mere ‘periphery’ and suggests that a ‘network’ model more accurately reflects the early development of wholesale and retail bookselling in England. This paper arises from my preparation of an essay for a forthcoming volume, Printed Culture and Provincial Cities in Early Modern Europe, edited by Benito Rial Costas.


14.30 - 15.00 Ragnhild Hutchison, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 'Internal market development on the outskirts of the early modern European growth areas – the case of Norway ca 1750-1830'

The emergence of internal markets in Europe in the early modern period had wide-reaching economic consequences, however most studies of internal market formation have focused on economic leaders such and Britain or the Netherlands. By looking at Norway between ca 1750 and 1830 this paper seeks to increase our understanding of both how the process of internal market formation could take place in countries on the outskirts of the early modern economic growth area, and also how geography could impact on this.


15.00 - 15.30 Carolyn Dougherty, University of York, 'British common carriers and the railways, 1830-1850'

Since at least the 17th century a sophisticated multimodal goods distribution network has existed in Britain.  Historians have researched and written about the components of this network, but little has been written about how these components linked together, how the network was used, and how it contributed to Britain’s early economic regionalisation.
The effectiveness of the network depended on the long distance common carriers who used packhorses, carts, wagons, and water transport to move goods between London and the rest of the country.  As private investors used their capital to develop canals and turnpike roads during the 18th century, carriers took advantage of these improved corridors; when general-purpose railways began to be constructed in the early 19th century the established carriers expected to use these new corridors in the same way.  The railway companies, however, began to adopt a different pattern of operation, in which the owners of the capital asset also managed freight conveyance on their corridors, and although carriers were initially able to incorporate the new railways into their distribution networks they were eventually pushed to the margins as the railway companies consolidated and amalgamated, creating their own distribution network that took over the long distance carrying trade.


16.00 - 16.30 Claire Jones, University of Warwick, 'Distribution Strategies within the Medical Trade: The British Medical Trade Catalogue, 1880-1914'

By the early years of the twentieth century, catalogues had become a main method of product promotion within the medical trade. Often extending to over five hundred pages, catalogues provided medical companies with a way to promote their comprehensive product ranges in one conveniently bound book. Catalogues were also a convenient way for medical practitioners to order the tools, instruments and pharmaceuticals they required, particularly for those based at a distance from the company premises. Indeed, practitioners all over Britain and much of the world ordered products from these catalogues. Yet, despite their evident importance for both companies and practitioners, historians have largely neglected the significance of medical trade catalogues. In fact, historians have generally neglected the relationship between medicine and commerce altogether. In this paper, I will examine companies’ catalogue distribution strategies between 1880 and 1914, and will argue that companies adopted these strategies because they were the most suitable methods of promoting their products to the largest number and most elite medical practitioners. I will examine catalogue distribution by post, distribution at trade exhibitions and medical conferences and finally, distribution by travelling salesmen. In conducting this analysis, I aim to provide new insights into the dynamics between medicine and commerce during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


16.30 - 17.00 Rosalind Watkiss, University of Wolverhampton, ' “Off the back of a lorry”: the redistribution of goods in the post-war Black Country

During the post-war years crimes of theft were increasing as workers in Black Country manufacturing industries ‘redistributed’ goods and raw materials from their places of employment.  In the three close-knit communities of Pensnett, Sedgley and Tipton this was not perceived as theft, or in any sense illegal, but as the rightful  ‘perks’ of employment. The appropriation of goods from impersonal institutions, wealthy employers or government departments was viewed very differently to taking goods from members of the local community.  Offences were, inevitably, clandestine in nature and their discovery did not necessarily result in prosecution. Consequently, statistical evidence produces only a partial view of criminal activities and court records reveal only those who were apprehended and charged. However, using evidence from oral interviews and newspapers it is possible to examine distribution methods and the views of the distributors, receivers, the employers and the judiciary in the period between 1945 and 1970. These reveal that crime was condoned as a contingency against poverty, as method of “making a bit on the side”, as a means of circumventing government controls and redistributing wealth and goods from ‘them’ to ‘us’.



Dr Laura Ugolini

Room MC334

Tel: 01902 321890

Email: L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk