The economics of culture in London, 1660-1740

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Abstract

Robert D. Hume asks four principal questions in this article: (1) Who were the consumers of elite culture, and what could and would they pay? (2) What could be earned by writers, actors, singers, musicians, painters? (3) Who actually profited from the sale of culture? (4) How did patronage affect the production of culture? A survey of surviving figures for income strata and the prices paid by buyers suggests that the consumers of elite culture belonged largely to the wealthiest two percent of the population. Analysis of incomes shows that trying to earn a living as a writer, actor, or musician was a tough proposition. Patronage turns out to be surprisingly important, but more in terms of jobs, sinecures, and subscriptions than from individual largesse. Exact equivalencies to modern buying power are impossible to calculate, but scholars need to realize, for example, that in 1709 fully two-thirds of the books advertised in the Term Catalogues cost two shillings or less: a five-shilling book was pricey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-533
Number of pages47
JournalHuntington Library Quarterly
Volume69
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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