Men, women, shops and 'little, shiny homes' : the consuming of Coventry, 1930-1939
In the 1930s many people leaving the United Kingdom's depressed areas in search of work were drawn to Coventry. Companies involved in the manufacture of motor cars, electrical goods, artificial silk and machine tools were typical of those located in the city. Most incomers found work: unemployment remained at a low level whilst the city's population exploded. The city boundaries were extended, and Coventry was rapidly suburbanised in response to the heightened demand for accommodation. Private developers noted with surprise how few of the new houses were built to let. The 1936 edition of Home Market placed Coventry first on its national index of purchasing power. From the middle of the decade, the city was closely associated with rearmament and four shadow factories provided further employment opportunities. This research addresses changes in the processes and practices of (primarily non-food) shopping amongst prosperous working-class Coventry people in the 1930s. It assesses the development of new spending patterns In relation to new products and services, and examines the role played by gender in determining the who, what, when, where and why of shopping. The thesis asks how these men and women negotiated financial power and consumer choice between them and discovers that the families who benefitted most from new material opportunities were those which placed a value on togetherness'. A range of source material is utilised to interrogate and contextualise oral testimony, and to explore the development of local retail provision. relationship is established between the city's manufacturing, retail and domestic environments. The research suggests that men spent slightly more time in the home, and women slightly less during this period. It also asserts that going shopping was not necessarily about acquiring goods; that acquir1ng goods did not necessarily involve going to the shops; and that the shopper was not always a woman.