Beware what you buy: the goods German citizens were forbidden to consume

For centuries many German citizens were forbidden to consume a variety of desirable goods, including 'very wide trousers'. Sheilagh Ogilvie, Markus Küpker and Janine Maegraith explain how such regulations may have had serious economic consequences

An 18th century village in Germany. Strict laws regulated the goods that each social class could buy. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine

By today’s standards, Magdalena Schöttlin hadn’t actually done anything wrong. But for a German village in 1708, she was behaving outrageously. The 34-year-old weaver’s wife kept wearing an “excessively large neckerchief, above her station in life” in a blatant violation of the government clothing ordinances.

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