T.H. Breen’s, The Marketplace of Revolution, explores how the consumer revolution that took place in the middle of the eighteenth century was actually one of the first things to set off the American Revolution. He argues that because the colonists shared the role of being consumers, they were able to share in a protest that made imports into political statements. He mentions that England was also going through a consumer revolution as well, but what made that one different to the American colonist one was that the imports the colonists received became objects of oppression. Objects bought also became signs of who supported who since many things were imported it was easy to tell who support the British Parliament just by what they bought.
Throughout his book Breen explains why mercantilism was not seen as a way of protest in many historians’ eyes for a while. Their argument was that consumerism is solely based on selfish want, but Breen proves that as a collective whole the colonists were able to mobilize against this theory. In his introduction, Breen also spends a good amount of time talking about how trust was such a major component in this equation which is something that has never dawned on me before. In order to create a proper protest (or boycott as Breen points out), the colonists had to rely on one another to make sure they were doing their part in not buying English goods to make sure their demonstration actually hurt the British economy and made a statement about what the colonists thought about the taxation of goods without their input.
I really enjoyed Breen’s mentioning of women in this narrative because they are often the most left out group in history. One of the main reasons why this political message was able to reach England without the colonists having to go without necessary items was all thanks to women. When the shopping needed to be done, it was the women who did that which made total sense to me when I read it even though it was such a simple thought. When the colonists decided to stop buying goods, it was the women who made all the missing goods. Of course they weren’t the same quality but they did the job.
Another revelation that