Sugar Tongs & Tea Spoons

An Archaeological Investigation of 18th-Century Consumerism’s Impact on London Society

Stephanie Duensing

This paper will explore the changing nature of consumption patterns in eighteenth-century London through the close analysis of two archaeological sites previously excavated by the Museum of London Archaeology. As a portion of my doctoral thesis, the aim of this research was, in part, to establish a more holistic method of approaching consumption practices from this period and to explore the wider implications of the consumption performed within the setting of public establishments. This paper will focus primarily on the relationship between social consumption and the impact on social conventions by utilizing two subtle forms of ideological conveyance: intrigue and elitism.

A typological system for artefact classification was developed and employed which enabled the categorization of material by their fabric, form and their associated functions. The distribution patterns of the various types and functions across three sites and five establishments in the City of London were analyzed. The material was then assessed for patterns indicating changes in consumption. These patterns of change were then interpreted based on historical records and archaeological, anthropological and sociological frameworks situated within economics, consumerism and systems of commodification. Particular focus here will be given to developing a better understanding of the crucial role these venues played in the dissemination of these ideals throughout the long eighteenth century.

This work is situated within wider dialogues of consumerism, specifically those surrounding how meaningful patterns of consumption can be perceived and interpreted through our engagement with the goods being created, purchased, displayed and used. Eating and drinking establishments were widely accessible to the general public in many various forms, thus focus here is on how these everyday materials can be linked to emergent and shifting patterns of social trends in consumption, but also fashion, politics and even public health. This paper attempts to showcase how social changes across a variety of classes and in a variety of different settings could all be brought together in venues of public and/or social consumption. This has allowed for both subtle and the overt shifts in social patterns to be distinguished, and from there, conclusions have been drawn which demonstrates a clear intersection with wider social ideology of the time.