This article attempts to reconnect the culture with the politics of the campaign for free trade through a case study of the National Anti-Corn Law League Bazaar held at Covent Garden Theatre London in the spring of 1845. Four major themes are considered. First, the ways in which the bazaar pulled together commerce and politics are explored. The League was not only concerned with the abolition of excise duty on staple goods (especially 'the people's corn') but was also keen to address the commodity world of Victorian capitalism more generally, and a focus on the bazaar helps unravel the significance of this preoccupation. The article then goes on to consider the central role played by middle-class women in this area and suggests why their participation was thought vital. Third, contradictory attitudes toward consumption and continuing fears provoked by the commercialization of politics are discussed in more detail.

Finally, the study suggests, more speculatively and in the longer term, that the culture of the League—embodied in the bazaar of 1845—helped prepare the ground for the emergence, or rather invention, of the modern consumer in Victorian England.


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pp. 385-405
Launched on MUSE
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