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March 6, 2003

Rise of Colonial Consumerism Subject of Lecture at Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum

Did the rise of consumerism in the 18th century change the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain? T.H. Breen, William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University, examines this question during the lecture, “Can Goods Speak to Power? A Curious Silence in the History of the 18th-century Atlantic World,” 4 p.m. Monday, March 24 in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s Hennage Auditorium. The program is included in museum admission.

Breen explores the unintended political consequences of a new consumer marketplace that transformed the Atlantic World in the mid-18th century. British policy makers were so taken with the volume of colonial business that they asserted that American consumers were essential to the continued prosperity of the mother country. Consequently, colonists were persuaded that consumer boycotts might provide a powerful weapon against parliamentary oppression.

The author of five books and numerous award-winning articles on early American history, Breen has just completed a volume for Oxford University Press entitled, “Common Goods: Revolutionary Markets on the Eve of American Independence.” He has held the Pitt Professorship at Cambridge University and the Harmsworth Professorship at Oxford University. In 2002 he was awarded the Walder Prize for being outstanding research professor at Northwestern University. He also is the author of a work on colonial slavery that has been transformed into an opera, "Slip Knott," which will open in Chicago in 2004.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s award-winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation’s exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. The museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through March 16 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 17 to Jan. 1, 2004. For additional program information, call (757) 220-7724.

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121