The boot and shoe trades in London and Paris in the long eighteenth century
This thesis examines the evolution of pre-industrial shoemaking in London and Paris between the 1680s and the 1850s, treating this period as a whole. The relevance of these two cities is based on the international role they played in the clothing sector. Both cities not only dominated national manufacturing, but were able to influence the standard of production and European fashion. My research aims to construct a comparison of the two productive centres leading to a contrasting study of pre-conditions, strategies and influences in shoemaking. The starting point is a broad view of the 'regulative framework' of the sector: the importance of the raw material market (leather and textiles) and the role of guilds, their organisation and their control of the market. A chapter dedicated to consumption explores the relationship between the London shoe market and the influence of Parisian fashion. The interest in consumption is motivated also by the debate on what economic and social historians consider to be 'mass production' as the other face of 'mass consumption'. A chapter dedicated to retailing tries to link consumption to production. My research is then focused on a study of the organisation of production in the two cities. Different typologies of producers are related to different consumer choices showing how new consumer practices and retailing facilities re-shaped production. Finally the link between fashion changes and marketing techniques (for instance the use of sizes, brands or the distinction between right and left shoes) is a fruitful field of comparative research. The last two chapters of the thesis focus on the first half of the nineteenth century. Particular attention is dedicated to the importation into England of large quantities of women's shoes from France. The crisis that the London sector faced after 1815 explains a series of changes in the market and in the role played by the British metropolis in directing the sector. Very different appears to be the Parisian case, where provincial producers flourished only after the mechanisation of the sector. By the 1850s mechanisation meant the beginning of a new phase in the trade.