To buy or not to buy


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History Today
Vol. 59, no. 2 (February 2009), p. 12-19


During the 17th century, Britain witnessed the birth of a consumer society. But as the number of possessions grew, so did the concept of 'taste', a subtle and elusive yardstick by which people advertised their social position and sensibilities. Keith Thomas looks at how the pursuit of taste encouraged, as it still does, competition and conformity