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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:Mass consumption

scene:Mass consumption

The introduction of steam power into factories from the beginning of the nineteenth century meant that goods could be made more cheaply and easily than by hand. Steamships brought raw materials and foodstuffs to Europe in larger quantities and more reliably than before. Here we look first at how shops changed and were themselves mechanised in order to sell larger quantities of manufactured goods to an increasingly prosperous public.


Cover of The Strand Magazine, September 1925. picture zoom © Mary Evans Picture Library

A new cultural industry arose as steam power was also applied to the printing press. Books became cheaper and more plentiful. Newspapers sold by the million and became brighter and more readable. The inexpensive mass-audience magazine was born, and with it came new forms of advertising aimed directly at the consumer.

The electric telegraph connected distant places by wire, but by the 1890s telegraphy without wires, or radio communication, had been discovered. From this came broadcasting, which was to become part of almost every home in Britain within 15 years. Television went from a theory propounded in a scientific journal in 1912 to an established fact in 1936. Although television itself did not become a mass medium until the 1960s, many of the elements of the consumer world we know today were in place by 1940.

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Cover of The Strand Magazine, September 1925.
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