Summary of Consuming Splendor

Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England

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Consuming Splendor book summary
The consumer's love of luxury and exotic imports isn't just a modern phenomenon: Take a look at England in the 1600s.


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If you think conspicuous consumption is a modern trend, or that globalization and outsourcing are recent phenomena, historian Linda Levy Peck has news for you. In this study, she explains that the English folk of four centuries ago were ever eager to keep up with the Joneses by blowing some of their disposable income on silks, paintings, chocolate and other pricey items that weren't exactly necessities. Indeed, their appetite for the finer things helped pave the way for today's mass materialism and international trade. A taste for fancy goods isn't so new, nor is debate over what shopping means to the structure of society. Levy Peck's professorial prose is dense, but her theme is eye-opening. getAbstract recommends this overview to anyone who'd like to understand what motivates consumers now and has motivated them for centuries.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How seventeenth-century English society became a cradle of modern consumerism;
  • How globalization and increasing affluence affected England in the 1600s;
  • How shopping centers evolved as early public squares;
  • Why moralists opposed luxury consumption.


The Roots of Modern Materialism
Historians often view seventeenth-century England through the prism of religion and politics. It was when Protestantism rose and the rule of law beat the iron fist of monarchy. Another story line is often ignored, even though this theme will resonate with...
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About the Author

Linda Levy Peck is Columbian Professor of History at George Washington University. Her previous books include Northampton: Patronage and Policy at the Court of James I and Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England.

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