This story, like many unconventional research journeys, starts with an uncatalogued record.
In the autumn of 2014, I was working in the British Library, following up a reference to a periodical called The World’s Fair. Still in the first month of research for my doctoral dissertation on the history of 20th century British retail markets, I was frustrated by seeming paucity of one of the key organisations in my dissertation: the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF). With no institutional archive, the NMTF appeared a brittle backbone for an extended investigation.
Yet the moment I opened the 1925 volume of The World’s Fair, my project changed forever. In each World’s Fair weekly was a supplement called the ‘Market Trader’s Review,’ the official periodical of the National Market Trader’s Federation. This was the institutional source I had been searching for, hidden in a cataloguing anomaly.
For roughly a month, I read the run of the Review from the mid-1920s through the 1970s. While many of the articles, editorials, and letters to the editor confirmed what I already knew about the history of markets in 20th century Britain, there was one hot-button topic that had never appeared on my radar during preliminary reading and research: the proliferation of private markets during the 1970s. Continue reading »