Consumerism in 18th Century England and Scotland

Being able to visit London and Edinburgh gave me a better understanding of the current culture and the culture of the cities during the 18th century. One thing that really stood out to me that took place in the 18th century was the rise of consumerism. It was very prevalent in the readings that we did before we went on the trip, and also when we visited historical sites in London and Edinburgh. In the readings, more specifically Humphry Clinker, we talked about consumerism and the mixing of classes because people in lower classes were able to afford the same things as the people in the upper classes. People of lower classes were on the streets in their fancy coaches and had nice clothes on, which threw off some people because the upper class were no longer clearly visible to anyone walking down the street. The historical rise of consumerism is something you can see today in museums, books, and movies.

In London we were able to visit two places that I feel expressed consumerism well. The first place is the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here you could see over time how people collected more items and how those items changed. Items became more extravagant and luxurious. Clothing items changed dramatically, for example, dresses became bigger, so big that women couldn’t fit through doors. Beds had more to them including very fancy oriental decorations on some. Other items like furnishing changed to reflect consumerism as well. I saw a silver platter that had a picture of the city of London engraved on the platter. All of these embellishments made life more luxurious and people were enjoying the benefits of a society with better access to goods.

A luxury dress

A luxury dress at the V&A Museum

The second place in London is Soane’s House. Soane was an architect and a collector of many things. In his home he had all kinds of artifacts covering every wall. He had a vast collection of books, many paintings and drawings (some were works of his own), many moldings from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian backgrounds, and some sculptors. Soane collected many items and would use these items to educate others. Back in this time people would go on a “grand tour” and they would take two years to go all over Europe and learn about different cultures. Many people passed through Soane’s doors and were able to educate themselves through his collection of books and art. Because Soane was acquiring more and more things he had a very good collection to learn many different things about history and culture.

When our class moved on into Edinburgh the move to consumerism was also prevalent during the 18th century. When we went to Gladstone’s Land we could see how a home would look in the beginning of the 18th century for a wealthy family. Comparing that with how the poor lived in Mary King’s Close, it was very easy to see how consumerism had reached the wealthy in Edinburgh. First, the people that had money had many rooms in their house to fill with all of the consumer goods. The wealthy people had sturdy furniture to hide valuables in, spacious kitchens with many utensils and room for the servant to live, and many lavish things like painted ceilings and beds with curtains that wrapped around the bed for privacy. These people had conveniences that came with the rise of consumerism.

When the new town was built in Edinburgh these modern conveniences that came with consumerism followed the wealthy to their new homes. In the Georgian House that we visited we could see how beautiful and lavish the homes were decorated. People had huge spaces to entertain guests. The walls were covered with paintings and there were high-end furnishings in every room. The bedroom had amazing decorations on the walls and including the bed. The kitchen for the house was absolutely huge. The servants had so much room to cook and prepare meals. They had ovens, and new utensils, and new inventions to cook, like the self-turning meat rotisserie. The servants had amazing living conditions compared to how they were treated in the beginning of the century. The butler had his own spacious room and the servants had a room specifically dedicated to their sleeping and living. There was even a move from a chamber pot to an early working of the toilet in this house. This house does however show the negative side to consumerism. The man who built the home was massively in debt because of the home and trying to impress people with his home and collection of things. In the end, he was forced to sell the property to pay off all of his debts.

The outside of the Georgian House.  Taken from:

The outside of the Georgian House.
Taken from:

Something that followed consumerism in the 18th century was a rise in tourism. Many authors were writing books about different places in England and Scotland and the people reading the books would read about them and want to visit to have the same experience as the characters in the book. One writing that majorly affected tourism was Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. This is a poem that mentions a loch in Scotland, Loch Katerine. Once people stated reading this poem they were flocking to Loch Katerine to see all of the sights so beautifully described in The Lady of the Lake. This relates to something in our society today. Many people flock to Loch Ness in search of the Loch Ness monster that has been talked about in books and fables for many years now. While Loch Katrine

isn’t the biggest tourism site today, you can see how people would be interested just like people are interested in Loch Ness. Humphry Clinker also influenced tourism because they main characters are on a journey through England and Scotland and there are many scenes that describe the beauty of both places. People are influenced by the way that Matthew Bramble completely changes character through the book. He has this horrible attitude about traveling and different places that he encounters on the trip. This all changes when he gets to Scotland and he is completely taken back by it. People now want to see that place and the culture that could change the mind of a grumpy person who seems to not like anywhere. I can personally say that after visiting Edinburgh and very few other parts of Scotland like Loch Katrine, I too see how Bramble got to the conclusion that he did.

Beautiful scenery from Loch Katrine

Beautiful scenery from Loch Katrine

Overall, consumerism played a huge role in 18th century London and Edinburgh. In fact, it continues to play a big role today. Consumerism pushes our markets and creates jobs for many people. Consumerism in the 18th century helped make social classes more equal, encouraged more people to take adventure and see what the world had to offer, and created a movement that continues today for bigger and better things.

One final thing I would like to say about this trip is that it was amazing! I never thought I would enjoy going to Scotland so much!! I came into the class not expecting to learn anything or even care about the classwork, but it turned out to be very interesting and fun for the most part. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience and now be able to compare 18th century UK culture with today’s. It was such an amazing opportunity to learn and travel with such an amazing and resilient crowd. I will miss everyone and I will always have the tidbits of info I know about 18th century British literature in my head!


Mary King’s Close and Edinburgh Castle

Today on our first day of sightseeing as a class we went to Mary King’s Close, lunch at Amber Restaurant at the Scottish Whiskey experience, and to Edinburgh Castle. Mary King’s Close is an underground world where people used to reside in Edinburgh. Here we learned about life if you lived on the close. This section of the city was often infested with the plague and was composed of many places to live that no person should have to be exposed to. Multiple families lived in the lowest areas and were crammed in to tiny living quarters. They were exposed to so much human waste on the close and most were born, worked, and died there, never leaving the close. Today the area is buried beneath the city of Edinburgh because the Scottish  Paraliament decided to take down some of the buildings (the tops) and use the rest for the foundation to a new city building.

Our next stop was Amber Restaurant at the Scottish Whisky Experience. We had a large table reserved and we enjoyed a two course meal. I enjoyed the beef casserole because I wasn’t brave enough to try the haggis, but other were. I also got a glass of whiskey, but I couldn’t finish it because I’m too much of a whimp when it comes to alcohol.

My glass of whiskey

My glass of whiskey

Our final destination was Edinburgh Castle. This castle sits on top of a road called the Royal Mile. Here you can find many things including an old royal residence, jails, and the Crown Jewels. The castle was amazing and it had breathtaking views of the city. The most amazing thing for me to discover was how well the prisoners were treated. Since the prisoners were either prisoners of war or military prisoners they were treated fairly well. They were fed well, and we’re allowed to do normal things. They even had a collection of jewelry boxes that were crafted by prisoners. I really enjoyed being able to see all the things I did inside Edinburgh Castle.

The castle from the outside

The castle from the outside

The view of Edinburgh from the castle

The view of Edinburgh from the castle

I ended my day by doing some shopping and getting some ice cream. It was a very good day.

Our First Free Day and the Events Leading Up To It

Our class trip to London and Edinburgh was scheduled to leave on June 12, 2015 from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illnois. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:10 local time so our bus left IUSB at 1:30 for the approximate 2 hour drive. We set off and things were going so smooth until we reached Gary, Indiana where a serious traffic accident had the road closed. We were stranded with no indication that we would be going anywhere soon. We waited on the road for about three hours before we were directed to turn our bus around and at that point we had no hope of catching our flight. It was devastating. Kyoko was on the phone with American Airlines explaining our situation and getting us a new flight. They had no available seats on Saturday so we had to wait until Sunday June 14 to leave and we were going to be split into two groups. One group would be leaving at 8:50am and the other group would be leaving at 4:35pm. Almost everyone had booked tickets for something to do on Monday in London because it was our first scheduled free day. Most people were able to change days or get refunds, but some had to wait and see. The people on the morning flight would be in London for all of Monday, but the people on the later flight wouldn’t get to London until early Monday morning. Lee and Kyoko were able to book us hotel rooms in Chicago so we could be there Saturday night and be at the airport extra early on Sunday. Everyone was a little paranoid about getting to the airport on time. The morning group caught their flight and it went off without a hitch. For the afternoon group, it was a different story. We made it to the airport with plenty of time, checked our bags, and got to the gate with a little over an hour to spare. We were going to all meet back up at the gate at 3:40 to get ready to board the flight. Some of us were sitting by the gate early when the announcement was made that our flight was going to be delayed an hour and a half to 6:00pm due to security checks. They started to board the plane around 6:00pm. We then sat on the plane until 8:15 until it started to move for take off. In total our flight was delayed almost 4 hours. The ride went smoothly and we were in London around 10:00am local time. Kyoko met us at the airport and led the way on the underground to our lodging. It was around 1:00pm when I was able to head out and enjoy what was left of my free day.

I had booked tickets with Lydia to go to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum for Monday morning. I had called to tell them that we couldn’t make the time and they said they would be sending me an email with information on if I could change times. I never got that email so we decided to just go and see if we could get in. They let us in with no problem and it was so much fun! We got to take pictures with so many famous people. My personal favorite was One Direction. We ended up spending quite a bit of time there because there was so much to see. After we left, we wandered around a little bit, we even got lost, and then decided to get dinner. After dinner we decide to walk around with some of the other people on the trip. We ended up walking pretty far and we were able to see Paraliament and Westminster Abbey. At this point we were super tired and running on basically no sleep so we decided to head back. I crashed fairly quickly, which was good because we were going to be having a busy next day trying to cram in more things since we had lost two days.

At Madame Tussaud's

At Madame Tussaud’s

Seeing Big Ben at night

Seeing Big Ben at night

Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched in Clydebank on April 16, 1953. It is a smaller yacht, measuring at 412 feet long and carried a crew of 240 people which included a Royal Marine band. There were also an additional 45 household staff when the royal family was aboard the ship. She served as the mobile royal residence for over 44 years going on 968 official voyages. The Royal Yacht Britannia has traveled over a million miles and has become one of the most famous ships in the world. The Queen would use this royal ship as a place to host state visitors, have official receptions, and family outings including vacations and more private affairs like royal honeymoons. The Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 due to a cut in government funds.

Here on a tour of the yacht you can discover all the things that made this yacht so fantastic and famous. You can see what a typical day would look like for a member of the royal family. There are many rooms to see aboard this majestic ship. Some rooms aboard the ship that are often highlighted include the royal apartments, the drawing room, the state dining room, the sun lounge, the royal bedrooms, the Sick Bay and Operating Theatre, the engine room, and the bridge.

The Royal Yacht Britannia is located in Edinburgh’s port of Leith (Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ), which is just a short drive or bus ride away from the city’s center. The yacht is open for tours daily from 9:30-4:30. The admission is 12.50 GBP or 19.16 USD and include the free audio tour that is available in 27 different languages.

I want to go to this attraction because I love anything that is associated with the royal family and I also love to go on boats and look around. They also have a gift shop on the ship, and I am such a sucker for a souvenir. It was also rated the number one thing to do in Edinburgh in 2014 on Trip Advisor’s website.

A map showing how to get to the Royal Yacht Britannia in port of Leith. Map taken from:

A map showing how to get to the Royal Yacht Britannia in port of Leith.
Map taken from:

Churchill War Rooms

WWII had quite an impact on London. During the Blitz, Churchill needed a place to take shelter and make plans to defeat the enemies. The Churchill War Rooms is an underground bunker where people that worked in government got their work done while they were being bombed from above. The Churchill War Rooms are now a historic place where you can go now to discover more about Churchill and the people that worked in the bunker.

In one part you get to walk through the Cabinet War Rooms where they actually met and plotted out the path to victory. THe rooms have been left exactly as they were the day that then were no longer needed in 1945. The other part is the Winston Churchill museum where you can learn all about Churchill and his accomplishments. Here they have the speeches the Churchill gave during wartime, letters that Churchill wrote to his wife, and items from his childhood.

The Map Room in the Cabinet War Rooms. Photo taken from:

The Map Room in the Cabinet War Rooms.
Photo taken from:

The Churchill War Rooms are ranked at number 9 on things to do while in London on Trip Advisors website. Some reviews claim that is attraction is a “must see”, “you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this”, and “an excellent audio commentary is included”.

The Churchill War Rooms are located right next to St. James Park at Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ. They are open 9:30am until 6pm.

It is a five minute walk from the Westminster tube station and a eight minute walk from the St. James Park tube station. From Russell Square I would take the Piccadilly line to Green Park. There I would transfer to the Victoria line to Victoria station. There I would need to transfer again to the Circle line to get to the Westminster station and walk to the Churchill War Rooms. Who wants to join me in learning about the unforgettable history of WWII?