The Economic History Review

From imitation to invention: creating commodities in eighteenth‐century Britain

Volume 55 Issue 1
Home > The Economic History Review > From imitation to invention: creating commodities in eighteenth‐century Britain
Pages: 1-30Authors: Maxine Berg
Published online: June 28, 2008DOI: 10.1111/1468-0289.00212

Log in to access the full article.

This article presents the history of new goods in the eighteenth century as a part of the broader history of invention and industrialization. It focuses on product innovation in manufactured commodities as this engages with economic, technological and cultural theories. Recent theories of consumer demand are applied to the invention of commodities in the eighteenth century; special attention is given to the process of imitation in product innovation. The theoretical framework for imitation can be found in evolutionary theories of memetic transmission, in archaeological theories of skeuomorphous, and in eighteenth-century theories of taste and aesthetics. Inventors, projectors, economic policy makers, and commercial and economic writers of the period dwelt upon the invention of new British products. The emulative, imitative context for their invention made British consumer goods the distinctive modern alternatives to earlier Asian and European luxuries.