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Response to Review of Global Trade and the Transformation of Consumer Cultures The Material World Remade, c.1500–1820

Shami Ghosh deftly assesses the new historical platform I propose in my recent book, tracing the global linkages and the attendant changes in material culture and consumer practice in the centuries following 1500. He notes my emphasis on non-elites in world regions and their many roles, some of which were involuntary. Consumption involved coercion as well as choice. Consumption and material politics cannot be presented in a rosy glow of 'more and better'. The history is more complex, as Ghosh notes and I address; nor can we assign agency and growing abundance to European elites alone.

Ghosh also raised a number of important questions I did not address, including the significance of production and making, in particular domestic making. This is a compelling subject worthy of careful study, including in comparative frameworks, with attention to chronological change. My sense is that the domestic production of different kinds of goods persisted well through this period of advancing consumer exchange, including for wide sectors of world populations. But the goods produced in home settings varied over time, shaped by cultural and gender priorities, available labour and local markets. Domestic quilt making in Pennsylvania illustrates this phenomenon, a growing choice of rural women once spinning mills displaced hand spinning.  Further research will illuminate this and other questions posed by this reviewer. Above all, I am delighted by the questions. My hope for this book was that it would be a springboard for other studies, to determine more precise circuits of change, intersections of material practice and the local and global actors in these events.