How did new consumer products affect the life of Londoners between 1500 and 1750?

The new consumer products made available between 1500 and 1750 led to a society in which those who could afford to do so showed off their wealth in conspicuous displays of consumption. This was particularly the case in London, where numerous markets and shops became places of socialization.

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While imported goods from all over the known world were available during the Middle Ages, most sixteenth-century Londoners only had access to a smaller amount of locally produced consumer goods. However, by the end of the sixteenth century, this had started to change. An increasing amount of upscale and luxury products flowed into England and became fashionable accessories of the growing middle class and gentry. By the end of the Renaissance, trade connections with the rest of the world had increased dramatically, ushering in what became known as the Consumer Revolution.

In London, this had a profound effect. Wealthy merchants and members of the gentry flocked to the city during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A culture centered on the consumption and display of luxury goods took hold. Many members of the gentry sought to imitate the tastes of the aristocracy through the display of their possessions. Large and small marketplaces and specialty shops sprang up throughout the city. These became important places of socialization where anyone who could afford to shop there could meet and mingle. As more wealth flowed into the city, grander buildings were built. The late seventeenth century became a time of grand architectural projects in London. After much of the old city burned in 1666, many opulent structures were built where once stood much simpler architecture.

There were still many Londoners who chaffed against this new age of conspicuous consumption. Many, such as Bernard Mandeville, decried a nation that spent its wealth on opulent displays and selfishness.

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