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Over the Global Counter: Selling Health, Hygiene and Beauty in the Long Twentieth Century

A one-day workshop at the University of Nottingham, Friday 14 June 2024

Over the twentieth century, health, hygiene, and beauty have become progressively commodified all around the world. From hot water bottles to toothbrushes, aspirin to vitamins, customers navigated an increasingly crowded marketplace crammed with products claiming to help them look and feel better. Consumer demand also prompted changes to store designs and staff expertise, as well to the advertising and packaging of products and services. Certain products became international sensations, others transformed into domestic staples, and some flopped entirely, remaining only today in archives as historical curiosities. These interwoven and global histories of retailing offer valuable insights into twentieth century business, customer behaviours and practices of well-being.

This one-day in-person workshop at the University of Nottingham will bring together scholars from across disciplines and at all career stages to discuss the marketing, advertising, retailing, and consumption of health and beauty products in any country in the world. We hope to foster opportunities for open, equitable discussion as well as collective reflection as the day unfolds. Proposals supporting work-in-progress are welcomed.

Areas for exploration might include, but are not limited to:

  • Retail spaces, their design, adaptation, and utility
  • The marketing and advertising of health, hygiene and beauty products and services
  • The ‘hidden’ backstories of products and pharmaceuticals
  • The working lives of retail and pharmaceutical staff and changing professional standards
  • The influence of gender, race, class, and age on sales and selling
  • The cultural impact of multiple/chain store retailers
  • Selling to international audiences, associated challenges, and opportunities
  • Bringing/introducing international products and services to the UK

We welcome proposals for twenty-minute paper presentations from across the historical disciplines. Please submit an abstract (c.300 words) with short biographical details (c.150 words) by 28 March 2024 to overtheglobalcounter@nottingham.ac.uk. We aim to inform participants of outcomes by 15 April 2024.

This event is the second in a workshop series organised as part of the AHRC project ”Chemists to the Nation, Pharmacy to the World’: Exploring the Global Dimensions of British Healthcare and Beauty with Boots The Chemists, 1919-1980′. Please contact Dr Hilary Ingram via overtheglobalcounter@nottingham.ac.uk with any questions or expressions of interest.