Behind the Counter: Shop Lives from Market Stall to Supermarket by Pamela Horn

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As Britain's population grew and the country became more urbanised and industrialised in eighteenth and early nineteenth century, so shops, shopkeepers and shopworkers also increased in number. Once people were no longer self-sufficient, so mass production stepped in to provide for their wants and improved communication and transport meant that goods could be sent to any part of the country. Pamela Horn's new book tells the story of the people who worked in the retail trade from the beginning of the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth century. "Behind the Counter" reveals the largely hidden personal stories of working life in corner shops, 'high class' grocers, dress shops, department stores. For the most part, shopworkers were expected to work extremely long hours, to be obedient and subservient, even to 'live in' as if they were domestic servants. Assistants who lived in were subjected to fines for leaving bedrooms untidy, for bringing in visitors or loitering near their lodgings. Even those who didn't live in were carefully supervised. Although the trade union movement, the co-operative movement and the concerns of some enlightened employers made life a good deal better for workers, they remain among the lowest paid today.



Date published



 Hardback with dust jacket