U.S. Colonial Consumption

“Consumption, Anglicization and the Formation of the American Identity” by T.H. Breen is a historical account of how consumption of English goods by the colonies formed both an Anglicized society and helped in the formation of the American identity. Prior to this point, the colonies had such fundamental differences that they found it hard to cooperate in matters which needed cooperation. The article provides examples of how colonial consumption of English goods helped shape the American identity and how it provided a base for colonial unity. While there is no direct question asked in the article, it does leave us to question how consumption affected the colonies. The author uses two main themes to answer the question. The first theme is about the standardization of American consumer goods, and the second is the Anglicization of colonial society.

With the standardization of goods coming in to the colonies, people began to associate their lives with the products they were receiving. Products such as furniture, soap and tea were fast becoming integral parts of American society. Furniture which used to be made on site in the colonies, were now able to be imported for purchase by the colonists. The same was true for soap. The author says that there was no shortage of material for the colonists to make such products. There was status to be had in purchasing goods from England, but as American consumers began purchasing similar products they began a social shift which brought them together.

Ladies who bought soap in South Carolina might find the exact same soap for sale in Massachusetts. This is important, because it gives the people something central to stand by. Instead of being separate spheres in their own sections, the colonies could now be brought together by the products they purchased. This leads to the Anglicization of the colonies.

Due to the Navigation Acts, all goods coming in and out of American were subject to English authority. Most exports went to England or it’s colonies and most imports worked in the same fashion. Not only did this lead to the standardization of products found in the colonies, it also led to a greater Anglicization of colonists. Influences from other countries such as France and Spain were harder to reach in the colonies. Newspapers, advertisements and goods all had English influence. While this seemed a paradox to American influence, Anglicization played a large part in the colonies eventual push for independence.

The colonies became so dependent on England for it’s goods, that once it had cause for outcry, consumer goods were an already existing base to which the colonies could unite. They had already been united in the products in which they used, and they had already been unified by the Anglican sense of identity. T.H. Breen showed successfully in this article how colonial consumerism brought a method of unity which had been lacking in the colonies prior to that point.

About Matthew Schroder

There is no shortage of science fiction reading here. No lack of appreciation for beards, love of coffee or obsession over blueberries.