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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter distinguishes several debates about the role and function of the pedlar in early modern and nineteenth-century society. It is customary to view the pedlar as a representative of popular culture and as the main supplier of cheap print for the lower classes in the period 1600-1850. With the presupposed distinction between pedlars in the city and pedlars in the countryside in mind, this book makes a comparison between the more rural society of England and the more urbanised society of the Netherlands. Bourdieu's field theory provides one way to understand the dynamics of the construction, dissemination and reception of cultural goods. To uncover pedlars' motives and actions, the chapter examines the itinerant traders' background and the nature of their economic, social and cultural capital. The chapter presents an overview of how the other chapters in the book are organized.

Keywords: Bourdieu's field theory; cultural capital; itinerant traders; nineteenth-century society; pedlar



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