Marketing History from Below: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Marketing Historical Research

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    Purpose – The purpose of this article is to introduce the theme of this special issue. In doing so, the paper argues that marketing historical research is in need of a paradigmatic shift. Rather than privilege primary and secondary sources that preserve the perspectives and actions of corporate managers and of marketing academics, marketing historians need to open the historical narratives they construct much more than before to the experiences and voices of ordinary consumers, i.e. of those who actually shop and buy and choose. They also need to do more to incorporate into their narratives examples of the value-creation that consumers themselves enact, both inside and outside the sphere of the market. Design/methodology/approach – By reviewing the state of the marketing historical literature, this paper introduces the “History from Below” school of historical thought into marketing historical research. It also tests to what extent a stronger consumer focus might be able to enrich historical research in marketing. Findings – Although contemporary marketing historiography is characterized by a richness of themes and methodological approaches, there is still a marked difference between the way marketing academics and historians write the history of marketing and consumption. While, surprisingly, the former often tend to ignore the voices of ordinary consumers, the latter often lack the marketing-related “technical” knowledge to fully understand the significance of specific archival sources they discuss. This means that a genuine “People’s History of Marketing” has yet to be written. Research limitations/implications – Findings from the paper will be of value to marketing historians who wish to expand the scope and agenda of their research and help historical research move away from narrow managerial perspectives and other “privileged” accounts of marketing. Originality/value – This paper makes two original contributions. First, it introduces historiographical innovations associated with “History from Below” (social history) into marketing historical scholarship. Second, it attempts to help marketing historians identify alternative sets of primary and secondary sources, e.g. oral history archives, which would allow them to be much more optimistic about their own ability to reconstruct the perspectives of those whose voices are all too often ignored
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Historical Research in Marketing
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)295-309
    Number of pages15
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Consumer citizenship
    • History from below
    • Methodology
    • Narratives
    • Oral history
    • Prosumers

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