208 gles over consumption switched from a focus on not having enough to consume, especially of essentials such as food, to questions about over-consumption. But these issues were never straightforward, as the problems of over-consumption (waste, pollution, obesity and related diseases) continued to co-exist with deprivation and inequality, especially in a global context. In a now classic article from 1971, E.P. Thompson argued for a new interpretation of the widespread bread riots in eighteenth-century England. Such protests could not be dismissed merely as the incoherent protests of a mob angered by their empty bellies, argued Thompson; rather they were motivated by a commitment to established “moral economies” that ensured the availability of corn at a fair price through regulation, and were directed against those seen as contravening this moral economy, such as millers and merchants.19 Following Thompson’s lead, historians have paid attention to how consumers have mobilised to protest against high food prices or food shortages in many different historical contexts.20 Such protests were often gendered, for example mobilising working-class women in their role as the managers of household budgets during the First World War.21 The successes of consumer politics have typically been con?ined to temporary and single-issue campaigns, however, in contrast to the often more stable organisations arising out of con?licts over production. It has been much more dif?icult to build lasting coalitions of consumers mobilised as consumers.22 An exception to this might be the success of consumer co-operatives, but even co-operatives have sometimes struggled to maintain a clear identity as consumer organisations, especially during the post-war era of mass af?luence.23 Nonetheless, the history of consumption and consumerism has never been about the one-sided triumph of capitalism and consumer choice.24 Con?licts over access to the market and the scarcity of goods remain, as do the con?licts over the moral economies of consumption. Campaigns about fair trade, ecology, the welfare of human or animal workers and now increasingly concerns about the over-consumption of goods and scarce natural resources dominate contemporary headlines but also have long and complex histories. This book is a welcome stimulus to further explorations of an important ?ield. 19 Thompson: ’The Moral Economy’. 20 Bentley: ‘Reading Food Riots’; Gurney, ‘Rejoicing in Potatoes’. 21 Davis: ‘Food Scarcity’; Hunt: ‘The Politics of Food’. 22 Hilton and Daunton: ‘Material Politics’; Hilton, Consumerism; Maclachlan and Trentmann, ‘Civilizing Markets’. 23 Hilson, Neunsinger and Patmore: A Global History of Consumer Co-operation. 24 Hilton: Prosperity for All.
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