University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Early Modern Economic and Social History Seminars > Singing the praises of tea. Social hierarchy, consumption and Asiatic luxury in the early modern Low Countries

Singing the praises of tea. Social hierarchy, consumption and Asiatic luxury in the early modern Low Countries

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Across large parts of Europe exotic novelties such as tobacco, porcelain, cottons and tea turned from exclusive luxuries into everyday staples over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More social groups and strata than before were now drawn into the realm of market consumption, as sumptuary legislation and traditional moral anxieties with regards to the vices of luxury were seemingly abandoned. This change is generally understood as a crucial aspect in the so-called ‘consumer revolution’, leading the way to growing commercialisation and eventual industrialisation (De Vries 2008; Berg 2004). This paper sets out to study whether the introduction and adoption of tea drinking in the Low Countries should be seen as a reflection of endogenous early modern social transformations, or if it perhaps served as an agent of change itself. How were social hierarchies reflected, transformed or perpetuated through the practices of (and discourses on) preparing and drinking tea in the early modern Low Countries? Clues will be sought for in probate inventories, trade statistics, scientific discourse, and popular ballads.

This talk is part of the Early Modern Economic and Social History Seminars series.

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