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Fine table linen in England, 1450-1750: The supply, ownership and use of a luxury commodity

Mitchell, David Malcolm; (1999) Fine table linen in England, 1450-1750: The supply, ownership and use of a luxury commodity. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

From the fourteenth century, diaper napery with small geometric patterns was imported from the Low Countries. Towards 1450, the drawloom was adapted in Flanders to weave white linen damasks with figurative patterns. These were expensive and initially covered the tables of the great. During the seventeenth century, new centres of manufacture in Germany provided cheaper figured table linens which were increasingly bought by the 'middling sort'. Dining was always more than the simple provision of sustenance whether for a king publicly 'to glase his glorie' or a merchant privately 'for love or business'. Dining ceremony which responded to these different purposes and to changing concepts of hospitality and civility, generated the furniture of the dining chamber and in turn the supplies of napery. This thesis examines the changing requirements for table linens using courtesy and household books in conjunction with a data set of some one thousand inventories. The patterns of importation by both English and stranger merchants are drawn from the London port books. Responses to the military situation on the continent and customs rates at home are considered, together with the degree to which a fashionable luxury commodity determined the trading strategies of individual merchants. The distribution of table linen is appraised including the dominant role of London linen drapers. This is followed by an evaluation of its changing ownership and the effect of differential rates of inflation of various household goods upon consumer preferences. The results are set within the context of the discussion of conspicuous consumption both by contemporary commentators such as William Harrison and the modem protagonists in the debate on the 'consumer revolution'. By linking pattern descriptions in inventories with surviving linens, the range of damasks sold in England is delineated and the influence of religious and political attitudes upon subject and design explored.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Fine table linen in England, 1450-1750: The supply, ownership and use of a luxury commodity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10043021
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