At the margins? Itinerants and pedlars

Authored by: Laurence Fontaine

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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In dictionaries as well as in literature, the pedlar is an ambiguous figure. However, if names and images reflect the diversity of their figures, they can be regrouped in two different categories: one is embedded in a larger network of people from the same origin, and the other one encompasses poor men and women who, for lack of work, survived through peddling and reselling all kind of food and clothes. The essay traces the history and the organisation of the pedlars and networks of migrants in Europe from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century and the ways in which they reorganised to cope with changes in their economic environment. It then describes how the trade of urban pedlars was a survival strategy for the underemployed or for people, especially women, who were rejected from the trade organisations.

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