Back to the Shops: The High Street in History and the Future

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What will become of the shops? More than ever, the high street appears to be under mortal threat, its shops boarded up as the sad 'bricks and mortar' survivals of a pre-online retail world. But behind the bleak appearance, there is more to see.

Back to the Shops offers a set of short and surprising chapters, each one a window into a different shop type or mode of selling. Old shopping streets are seen from new angles; fast fashion shows up in eighteenth-century edits. Here are pedlars and pop-ups, mail order catalogues and mobile greengrocers' shops. Here too are food markets open till late on a Saturday night, and tiny subscription libraries tucked away at the back of the sweet shop.

Over time, shops have occupied radically different places in cultural arguments and in our everyday lives. They are essential sources of daily provisions, but they are also the visible evidence of consuming excess. They are local community hubs and they are dreamlands of distraction.

Shops are inherently spaces of imagination as well as of practicality. They belong with their own surrounding streets and town; they bring back the times and places of our lives. They linger in stories of all kinds, whether far-fetched or round the corner. From butcher to baker and from markets to motor vans-after reading this book, you will want to go back to the shops.

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Oxford University Press
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