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Much has been written on the consumer changes that supposedly originated in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, eventually paving the way for a bourgeois consumer model and even for the consumer revolution. However, in the Low Countries no sharp break is discernible between urban patterns of consumption in the Middle Ages up to the ‘long’ sixteenth century and those of the Dutch and English ‘consumer revolutions’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the medieval town, the house gradually became the setting for a fashionable and more diversified material culture. This new material culture was marked by imported products and processing innovations that enhanced a process of material diversification and reinforced the growing importance of design at the expense of ‘intrinsic’ product qualities. The new material culture derived its strength not just from the conspicuous consumption pattern of the wealthier urban elites – with or without their aspirations to nobility. Rather, the middling groups, too, claimed their place as consumers, both of luxury goods and of less expensive alternatives that were coming onto the market.
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