This entry examines the contribution of the British Empire to consumer culture and looks at how the British Empire can help us understand the historical links between consumption and the development of international commerce. The British Empire—that is, the imperial holdings of the British state from the seventeenth century onward—emerges in two stages. Discussion of what has become known as the First British Empire focuses on the settlement and government of parts of the mainland of North America, as well as the Caribbean. This initial formation of empire lasted from the early seventeenth century until the late eighteenth century, at which point British holdings became severely depleted after the United States successfully prosecuted a war of independence. The stage that is known as the Second ...

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