Skip Navigation

Brockport / History / Graduate / Syllabi / HST 470/570

Sample Syllabus: History 470/570

The World of Goods: Consumerism in Europe and the World 1700-Present

Professor: Morag Martin
Class Time: T/Th 11.30-1.00, Holmes 215
Office: 122 Brown Building
Office Hours: T/Th 10-11.15, Wed 1-2.30 or by appointment
Phone: 395-5690


Books to purchase:
Emile Zola, The Ladies’ Paradise (Oxford)
Peter Stearns, Consumerism in World History (Taylor and Francis)
All other Readings are on Angel


Course Overview
This is a reading intensive seminar whose focus is on a larger historiography using specific weekly readings.  We will work on analysis and writing of secondary sources (and one novel) using these readings.  The course covers the history of consumerism in a world context over three centuries.  We will start by investigating the 18th century Consumer Revolution that originated in England and then look at the impact of Asian and New World products and consumer responses.  For the 19th century, we focus primarily on France, looking at the boom in Department stores and advertising at the end of the century illustrated in the novel by Zola.  We will also be looking at the affects of western imperialism on Africa through the lens of soap and hygiene.  In the twentieth century, we start with the ascendancy of the United States as the main cultural creator of consumer values, looking at both the home-grown culture and its exportation to Europe and Latin America.  Finally, we end by looking at the intersection of communism and consumerism, Japan’s post-war consumerism and the development of China as a main producer of consumer goods.


Response Papers                                        15%
Group Project                                                10%
Paper I                                                            15%
Paper II                                                           22%
Paper III                                                          23%
Participation/Attendance                             15%





Response Papers
You will write SEVEN 1-2 page (2 minimum grads) typed response papers in the weeks of your choice (I would advise not doing them all late in the semester).  You may turn in up to NINE and I will drop the lowest grades.  Each undergrad response paper must address at least 2 readings (unless there are less than 2 assigned for that week/day).  Graduate students should address at least 3. 
Response papers consist of an explanation of the authors’ thesis/argument, a quick overview of the content and concluding remarks on what you thought of the articles (and if they are complimentary, how they compare).  These should function as mini-papers.  They will help improve your writing and get feedback early on from me about any problems you may have in writing.  Though I will give comments on style and grammar, they will be graded primarily for content: ie how well you understood the reading and were able to pick out the key points and arguments. 


You will be writing three formal papers for this class.  The first will ask you to expand on your response papers about 18th century consumerism in Europe and America.  The second will be focused on the novel The Ladies’ Paradise while the third will focus on 20th century forms of consumerism.  Papers assignment sheets will be handed out at least 1 week in advance.  A grading rubric is available on Angel.


Group Projects
You will be participating in one group project.  Your group will be asked to put together a presentation on a specific mini-research project analyzing advertisements for a brand that emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (such as Kodak, Singer Sewing Machines, Coca-Cola).  I will suggest topics and campaigns.  Groups will be made up of graduate and undergraduate students.  The grade for this project will be based on your oral presentations of your topic, an outline and evaluations of each other’s participation.  A grading rubric will be posted on Angel.


Graduate Students
Graduate students are expected to fulfil the above requirements plus a few others.  They will be reading one extra article a week (most of the time) and will be responsible for presenting to the class the content, argument and interesting points of these articles.  This task will be divided between the graduate students.  Each student will have to present at least three times.



Attendance is mandatory.  More than 4 unexcused absences will hurt your participation/attendance grade.  More than 6 unexcused absences or more than 10 total will be grounds for failing the class.
Since this is a seminar at the 4/500 level, all students will be expected to have done their reading and be able to participate in class discussion.  This can mean active involvement in group work, asking questions as well as answering them.  Those who are nervous about talking in class will be encouraged to bring in reading questions.  All students will start with a “C+” in participation/attendance.  That grade will go up if you participate actively and go down if you miss classes or do not make an effort to participate in class in any way.


The attached sheet lays out the definition and repercussions for plagiarism.  All papers will be submitted through a drop-box on Angel that is linked to ‘Turn-it-in’ software to deter plagiarism.  We will go over the most common types of plagiarism and students should take the Tutorial on Academic Integrity Tutorial (available on our Angel page).


Crucial information about the class will be transmitted through our Angel web site: paper assignments, reading questions, drop boxes for papers and any outlines/Powerpoints I use for the few lectures I will give.  Readings and other class material are organized under Lessons in folders for the appropriate weeks.  General assignments are under the folder marked Assignments. It is your responsibility to check Angel for class material, but any changes on syllabus or new assignments not announced in class will be emailed to you. 
You may want to change your email setting in Angel as the default email is your Brockport one.  Go to Preferences (picture of a person) and then Personal Information.


Special Needs/Circumstances
Students with special needs due to physical and learning disabilities should let me know.  The office for Students with Disabilities can be contacted at 395-5409.  Students with any other special circumstances should also come talk to me.  It is always preferable to let me know if you have to miss classes, assignments and exams ahead of time.


Week 1
Tues. August 26           Introduction

Thurs. August 28          A Consumer Revolution
Reading: Peter Stearns, Consumerism in World History, chapters 1-2. 
Graduate Students: Neil McKendrick, “The Consumer Revolution,” in The Birth of       Consumer Society, eds McKendrick, Brewer and Plumb (Harper Collins, 1982).
Week 2
Tues. Sept. 2                Why a Consumer Revolution?
Reading: Stearns, chapter 3 
Graduate Students: Jan de Vries, "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious
               Revolution," Journal of Economic History 54, no 2 (June 1994): 249-270.

Thurs. Sept 4                Gender and Consumerism
Reading: Woodbury Smith, “From Coffeehouse to Parlour” in Consuming Habits, ed  Jordan Goodman (Routledge, 1995).
               Amanda Vickery, “Women and the World of Goods” in Consumption and
               the World of Goods, eds Brewer and Porter (Routledge, 1993).
Response Paper I


Week 3
Tues. Sept. 9                Spread of Consumerism and World Trade
Reading: Ken Pomeranz and Stephen Topic, “The Economic Culture of Drugs,” in The World that Trade Created (ME Sharpe, 1999).
Graduate Students: Maxine Berg, “Goods from the East,” in Luxury and Pleasure in    Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2005).

Thurs. Sept 11              Slavery and Sugar
Reading: Clare Midgley, “Slave Sugar Boycotts, Female Activism and the Domestic      Base of British Anti-Slavery Culture,” Slavery & Abolition 17, no 3 (1996):            137-162.
Graduate Students: George Metcalf, “A Microcosm of why Africans Sold Slaves: Akan             Consumption Patterns in the 1770s,” T he Journal of African History 28, no. 3       (1987): 377-394.
Response Paper II


Week 4
Tues. Sept. 16              America and the Revolution
Reading: Stearns, ch 4
            T.H. Breen, “Baubles of Britain: The American and Consumer Revolutions of    the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119 (May 1988): 73-104.

Thurs. Sept. 18 Natives and Consumerism
Reading: James Axtell, “The First Consumer Revolution,” in Beyond 1492;
Encounters in Colonial North America (Oxford, 1992). 
Graduate Students: Rebecca Earle, “Two Pairs of Pink Satin Shoes: Race Clothing and
               Identity in the Americas,” History Workshop, 2001. 
Response Paper III


Week 5
Tues. Sept. 23              Rough Draft Paper I Due
Reading: Stearns, ch. 5

Thurs. Sept. 25 The Department Store: The Second Consumer Revolution
Reading: Emile Zola, Ladies Paradise (Oxford World Classics), chapters 1-3.
Response Paper IV


Week 6
Tues. Sept 30               Paper I Due
Reading: Zola, Ladies Paradise 4-6

Thurs. Oct 2:
Reading: Zola, The Ladies’ Paradise, ch 7-9
Graduate Students: Lisa Tiersten, “Marianne in the Department Store,” in Marianne
               in the Market: Envisioning Consumer Society in Fin-de-siècle France (UC           Press, 2001).
Response Paper V


Week 7
Tues. Oct. 7                
Reading: Zola, The Ladies Paradise, ch 10-End

Thurs. Oct 9                 19th century Advertising and Gender
Reading: Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Reframing the Bicycle: Magazines and Scorching           Women,” in The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of       Consumer Culture (Oxford 1996).
Graduate Students Reading: Judith Coffin, “Credit, Consumption and Images of
               Women’s Desires: Selling the Sewing Machine in Late Nineteenth-Century
               France,” French Historical Studies 18, No. 3 (Spring, 1994): 749-783.
Response Paper VI


Week 8
Tues. Oct. 14               No class – October Break

Thurs. Oct. 16              Rough Draft of Paper II Due
Bring two copies of your Rough Draft




Week 9
Tues, Oct 21                Empire and Advertising
Reading: Stearns, Ch. 10
               Richard Thomas, “Selling Darkest Africa,” to page 146, from the Commodity           Culture in Victorian England (Stanford, 1990).

Thurs. Oct. 23              Cosmetics, Soap and Race
Reading: Kathy Piess, “Shades of Difference” in Hope in a Jar: The Making of American       Beauty Culture (Metropolitan Books, 1998).
Graduate Students: Timothy Burke, “Bodies and Things: Toiletries and Commodities in Postwar Zimbabwe” in Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women (Duke, 1996).
Response Paper VII


Week 10        
Tues. Oct 28                US: Mass marketing
Reading: Susan Strasser, “New Products, New Habits,” in Satisfaction Guaranteed: The        Making of the American Mass Market (Smithsonian Books, 1989).
Graduate Students: Susan Strasser, “Having and Disposing in the New Consumer          Culture,” in Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (Metro. Books, 1999).

Thurs. Oct. 30              Childhood and Advertising
Reading: Nancy Martha West, “Operated by Any Boy or Girl: The Marketing of the      Brownie Camera,” in Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia (U of Virginia 2000)
Response Paper VIII


Week 11
Tues. Nov. 4                Group Projects

Thurs. Nov. 6               No Class- Work on Group Projects


Week 12        
Tues. Nov. 11              Presentations of Group Projects

Thurs. Nov. 13             The American Invasion: Responses to Consumer Culture
Reading: Stearns, ch. 6 and 9
               Richard Kuisel, “Coca-Cola and the Cold War: The French Face       Americanization 1948-1953,” French Historical studies 17, no. 1(Spring,     1991): 96-116.
Graduate Students: Julio Moreno, “Industrial Capitalism, Antimodernism and Consumer             Culture in 1940s Mexico,” Yankee Don’t Go Home (U     of North Carolina         Press, 2003).
Response Paper IX
Week 13        
Tues Nov. 18               Communism
Reading: Stearns, ch. 7
               Marjorie Hilton, “Retailing the Revolution: The State Department Store
(GUM) and Soviet Society in the 1920s,” Journal of Social History 37, No. 4, (Summer 2004): 939-964.
Graduate Students: Susan Reid, “Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the De- Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Krushchev,” Slavic           Review 61, no. 2 (Summer 2002).
Response Paper X

Thurs. Nov. 20             Post-Communism
Movie: Czech Dream


Week 14        
Tues. Nov. 24              Made in Japan
Reading: Stearns, ch 8
               Simon Partner, “Creating the ‘Bright Life’” in Assembled in Japan: Electrical            Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer (UC Press, 1999).
Graduate Students: Sheldon Garon, “Japan’s Post-War ‘Consumer Revolution,’ or       Striking a ‘Balance’ between Consumption and Saving,” in Consuming         Cultures, ed. J. Brewer and F. Trentmann (Berg Press, 2006).
Response Paper XI

Thurs. Nov 26              Thanksgiving


Week 15                                
Tues. Dec. 2                 Globalization
Movie: Walmart

Thurs. Dec 4                Made in China
Reading: Stearns, ch. 12
               Isabel Hinton, “Made in China” in Granta 89 (Spring 2005).


Paper III due Thursday of finals week

Back to top of page

Last Updated 7/21/10


Our sincere congratulations to Matty Lynn Kuhar who won the 2016 School of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Award!

Dr. Alison Parker has been invited to be this year's Harriet Jacobs Lecturer at Purdue University. Her talk is entitled Mary Church Terrell, Black Women, and the Rise of the Democratic Party. 

Dr. Nishiyama has been invited to give a talk (title "Kamikaze Technology and Culture for War: Japan and the USA, 1941-2001") at the RIT.

Dr. Alison Parker facilitated significant donation of historical papers to Oberlin College and participates in its celebratory symposium on the life of racial justice advocate Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

Congratulations to Dr. Jose R. Torre on winning the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching!


History Forum will host Region 11&12 Meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, on 4/30 (Saturday, from 9am to about 4pm) at McCue Auditorium (LAB104).

History Department Graduation Ceremony will be held in New York Room, Cooper Hall, at 10:30 am, May 14 (Saturday).