In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Second-Hand Trade

  • Introduction

Atlantic History Second-Hand Trade
Ilja Van Damme, Reinoud Vermoesen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0364


Why would people trade and consume secondhand products? This simple question unlocks a complex and dazzling area of research in which economic and social structures meet culturally biased material consumption and trade networks. The selling and reuse of old and discarded objects in the past has received only minor attention from historians. Only quite recently has this field of history concurred its place in the research agenda of a new generation of researchers. For instance, studies of consumption connect to mainstream historical understanding, but they tend to predominantly analyze the acquisition of new goods and the rise of novel consumption patterns. Thus far, historians have studied secondhand trade mainly as an aspect of developments in the production of textiles. Not surprisingly, the widespread trade and use of secondhand clothing in the past has made these practices all the more visible through different sources, such as commercial documents, civil lawsuits, municipal legislation, and advertisements. This contribution cannot address every question that is discussed in the historiography. Therefore, it tackles five different research topics. First, it deals with the Conceptualizing Secondhand Trade. In the next section, the Secondhand Trade in Consumption Studies is analyzed, followed by a brief survey of the Secondhand Trade through History. In the final sections, the Secondhand Trade in Textiles and Clothing and the Secondhand Trade in Luxuries are dealt with.

Conceptualizing Secondhand Trade

Drawing upon scholarship from a broad area of studies interested in consumption and distribution of objects and materials, research into secondhand trade has expanded significantly in the last two decades. Given the interdisciplinary and wide-ranging nature of the field, the study of secondhand trade warrants, first, careful conceptual consideration. In what follows, we define secondhand trade by focusing on the life cycle of the goods being exchanged, and on their context-dependent value estimations.

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