Buying British

From Elizabethan laws to modern food campaigns: the long history of Britain's patriotic consumers.

Publicity shot for the ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign, 1966. (Hulton/Getty Images)

Following Brexit and Donald Trump’s declaration that US citizens should ‘Buy American’, in January 2017 the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, called on his compatriots to ‘Buy British’. Yet the idea that British consumers should support their farmers, factories, workshops and small businesses is not a recent phenomenon. Where did this trend start and what is so appealing about ‘buying British’?

Questions about how consumers could support – or even oppose – the identity and economic success of their country through shopping have long been asked. Although the means by which customers have been compelled to participate in patriotic consumerism have changed, the message – that buying British things will help make the country better, stronger and happier – has remained constant. 

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