Abstract: Labels, Brands, and Market Integration in the Modern Era
As structural market elements, brand names and labels are the source of research, debates, and political struggles. Historical perspectives are rare. Researchers have analyzed the significance of brands under the Ancien Régime, a system of collective obligatory labels marking the certification of qualities abolished by the revolutionary decisions of 1791. I show how the fluidity of brands continually subtends the fixity of what they signify. A "branded" product in the Ancien Régime is a polysemic utterance whose different understandings accumulate, cover each other, and sometimes intermingle. To grasp brands' and labels' multiple meanings among collective labels and individual brands, trademarks, and brand names and the ruptures and continuities in these terms, post-French Revolution, I examine brands in textiles, cutlery, and glass-making. These fields differ in the work involved, the scale produced, and the nature of the clientele, allowing us to deepen our understanding of the complex significance of brands.