Daniel Defoe was an English fervent supporter of trade: to him, trade was a natural feature of the English nation, and the English people were the best people at trading in the world. Indeed, in the 18th century, the State is a means to promote trade, the English empire is all about trade; the English nation works on trade, and that is a fact that was formulated by Napoleon in his phrase (talking about the English nation) "a nation of shopkeepers". So we see how critical commerce was in England at the beginning of the 18th century, and thus the importance of theories about trade at that time. Here, Defoe actually writes his theory about "Fine shops and fine shows", as the subtitle says, so he focuses on a precise type of commerce, that is to say shops, and explains how to arrange one's shop to make a good trade.
[...] He describes all the things that have to be added to the list of decorations in the opinion of the young tradesmen, and this numbered list is another way to discredit the interest of those traders by showing how complex it is: three great glass lanterns in the shop, and eight small ones”. Then he explains his belief that a tradesman should invest more money in his stock than in the decoration: indeed, his idea is that a well-served customer always brings more customers, rather than a customer who would be attracted by the presentation of the shop but who would not have a great choice of goods. [...]
[...] Maybe he is scared about seeing his country perverted by the French morals, which would be a supreme offence as France and England are cut-throat rivals. And in another way, his position is a means to criticize the English gentry, not only because a part of it imitates French manners, but because of a kind of rivalry between traders and gentry at that time: indeed, tradesmen enriched themselves with commerce, and became as wealthy as the gentlemen, even richer sometimes, but they were despised by the gentry because they had no territories: Defoe shows his contempt of this part of the English people whose wives [...]
[...] But all those principles (privileging substance rather than superficiality; being honest rather than deceive people; adopting the behaviour of moderation and wisdom) are things that, according to the author, have disappeared; and that is why, through his advise to the young tradesmen, he makes a strong opposition between past and present. Indeed, modernity represents to him superficiality and craziness; he gives to his contemporaries the name of several times in the text: “this age must have more fools than the last”. [...]
[...] To Defoe, the goods are the essential thing that really matters for the customers, so they should be essential to tradesman too, and not the show that is only an artificial, secondary thing. If he does, Defoe explains the logical consequences of such a behaviour: to him, the fame of trade makes the trade; that is, if the tradesman is trusted by his first customers, who are happy to have a large choice of goods, then the reputation of the shop and the tradesman will be good and that image will attract other customers. [...]
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