Business Life in Diagon Alley
Harry Potter books 1-6
Hogwarts Shield

3. The Story of the Harry Potter Series

The main theme of the Harry Potter books is Harry Potter's fight against the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents and failed to kill Harry when he was one year old.

The books describe a world of wizardry quite apart from our ordinary "Muggle" world. Many of the characteristics of the wizard world are described as a quite old-fashioned, simple, and easily understood world of yesterday. For example, the wizards do not use electricity – they use magic instead.

Joanne K. Rowling wrote the first book and made a plan for seven books simultaneously. In a recent interview she promised that the ending of book 7 will be in accordance with the original plan:

This is the author telling openly about her intentions – but nobody except the author herself will know whether this is true, because the content of her plan is not published, it is a hidden intention. Rowling has created a world of quite her own invention, and she is very good at inventing, planning and describing, because there is a lot of fantasy, but apparently no mistakes and no loose ends yet. [Note 26]

Every book describes a year at the "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry", meaning that most of the action takes place at a boarding school where you are not supposed to use money every day, meaning that the school is outside the market sphere. However, there is a business life elsewhere in the magical world. Right beside the busy high streets of London is hidden a diagonally world, literally called 'Diagon Alley'. The Hogwarts pupils meet each other here in the end of August to buy new books, quills, and clothes before leaving for Hogwarts.

3.a What is not described?

As readers of the Harry Potter books we see the story as J.K. Rowling wants us to see it. We may try to understand the author's intentions. We may even try to extrapolate what is not explicitly written – but we cannot learn about what is absolutely not described.

No author can describe everything, not even J.K. Rowling, and for example there is no description of any parents providing their children with new clothes during the school season or of anybody buying food for households [Note 27]. Apart from the mentioning of "Christmas" and "Easter" there are no reference to religion. See section 9.d in the appendix for a note on tobacco and alcohol.

One such thing not described is how the magical devices are produced. We do not know how to produce a flying carpet and the books are not telling us how one could do it. Which materials and spells do you have to use? According to Rowling's descriptions it is likely that the wizards' production takes place in small workshops, but we do not know, because she does not tell us. And maybe we would not like to know, if there by any means was a way to explain magical production.

This way of not knowing could be quite similar to what is happening in our Muggle, western world where we have no idea of how computer chips are made – they just arrive ready-made from Taiwan and surrounding countries.

3.b Economic Extract, etc.

As described in section 1.e the economic story is a subplot compared to the magical world described in the books. In the following chapters I present some citations on economic matters. My extracts amount to approximately 15 printed pages, or half a percent of the total of 3,200 pages. The figure below shows the number of pages in the six books and the books' relative share of the total extract:

Figure Economy Pages

References, page numbers, and characters:

  1. References are to book, chapter, and page number: (Book-Chapter-Page).
  2. In section 9.a "Books, Chapters, and Page Numbers" there is a list which may help you find the relevant page in other editions.
  3. See also section 9.b, "List of Characters"

3.c Business Life around the Harry Potter Series

The first book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury, a fairly small independent publisher, in July 1997. The book's initial success was based on some positive reviews and word of mouth. Apparently J.K. Rowling did not have any particular age group in mind when she started to write the Harry Potter books. Her publishers initially targeted them at young readers aged 8 to 15. Rowling's writing has become more sophisticated and the content of the books has matured as the lead character, Harry Potter, has grown older. The reading age for the books, both in terms of content and style, is rising as the series goes on.

The reasons for the success of the series could be J.K. Rowling's unique mix of the genres fantasy and boarding school novel, and her ability to drive elaborate and largely seamless plots over a very wide canvas. [Note 28]

The Danish editions are published on Gyldendal, the leading Danish publishing firm. Gyldendal chose to translate Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone without knowing that the original English version would be a bestseller. It was chosen because it was judged to be a good and entertaining book. The translator Hanna Lützen adds that even if the author announced the book to be the first one in a series, one could not be sure that the following volumes would ever be written. [Note 29]

But the following volumes were written, and the series became an outstanding success, selling more than 300 million copies worldwide. [Note 30]

In the year 2000 J.K. Rowling signed a contract that allowed Warner Brothers to create films based on the series. As a part of this deal she has sold her general copyright to Warner Brothers as is shown in the colophon of every book:

The first three films ranked first, second, and second in worldwide box office grosses for their years of release, a turnover of more than $2.6 billion. That resulted in – and is the result of – a series of major marketing campaigns. Wikipedia tells the story this way:

The books themselves carry only a few traces of the kind of branding that Warner Brothers and Bloomsbury use for the launching of Harry Potter films and books. It is thought-provoking, that the untrustworthy character of Gilderoy Lockhart is the books' foremost spokesman for these methods of branding (2-4-69 f., 2-6-100 f.).

See an example of public relations and storytelling in section 9.e.

'He'll be famous – a legend – I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!' Minerva McGonagall, 1-1-15 [Note 32]

4. Business Life in Diagon Alley

The wizards' monetary system puts one in mind of the old British system of twenty shillings to a pound and twelve pence to a shilling which were changed to one hundred pence to a pound in 1971 [Note 33]. Hagrid, the keeper of the keys, explains to Harry:

Harry Potter's first introduction to the market economy of the magical world happens  when he is wakened by an owl delivering the daily newspaper to Hagrid. The owl wants something, and Hagrid explains that it wants payment for the newspaper (1-5-49).  In the Hogwarts Express Harry can buy Chocolate Frogs from the trolley. Harry's new friend Ron Weasley explains:

Children grow, and they need new clothes when on a boarding school. Mrs. Weasley is planning to buy new clothes for her son Ron:

Payment for education, books, and robes are mentioned sparingly. Example:


If you are seventeen years of age, or will turn seventeen on or before 31st August, you are eligible for a twelve-week course of Apparition Lessons from a Ministry of Magic Apparition Instructor. Please sign below if you would like to participate. Cost: 12 Galleons. (6-17-331)

Professor Dumbledore is telling the orphan Tom Riddle how to attend school without having money:

Not all products stem from the market, as Harry regularly receives home-made gifts:

4.a Small-scale Business as a General Rule

The books mention a lot of shops in Diagon Alley and elsewhere. The first mention is when Harry reads the list of required uniform, books, and other equipment for Hogwarts.

The entrance is through the Leaky Cauldron, an inn connecting the ordinary London streets to Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley Shops mentioned by name

The Leaky Cauldron

1-5-54, 3-4-57 ff., 6-6-107, 6-13-257

Gringotts Bank

1-5-57 f., 2-4-65 f.

Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions

1-5-57, 3-4-60,  6-6-109 ff.

Flourish and Blotts' bookshop

1-5-62, 2-4-67 ff. 3-4-60 f.

The Apothecary's

1-5-62, 6-6-112

Eeylops Owl Emporium – Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy

1-5-56, 1-5-63, 6-6-112

Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC

1-5-63 ff., 6-6-104

Quality Quidditch Supplies

1-5-56, 2-4-66, 3-4-58 f.

Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop


The Magical Menagerie

3-4-66 f.

Florean Fortescue, Ice-cream place in Diagon Alley


Twilfitt and Tatting's clothes


Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

6-6-112 ff.

Some of the descriptions sound like ordinary business marketese:

Other Diagon Alley Shops

Cauldron shop – All Sizes – Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver – Self-Stirring – Collapsible


Telescopes and strange silver instruments


A second-hand robe shop


Junk shop full of broken wands, wonky brass scales and old cloaks


Shabby-looking stalls selling amulets


Quite near to Diagon Alley are some other, more sombre streets:

Knockturn Alley Shops

Borgin and Burkes

2-4-57 ff., 6-6-120 ff., 6-20-405

Shop with shrunken heads and gigantic black spiders


Not far from Hogwarts is Hogsmeade, the only entirely non-Muggle settlement in Britain:

Hogsmeade Shops

Dervish and Banges, magical instruments and stuff

3-5-87, 3-8-172


3-5-87, 3-8-172, 3-10-213 f.

Zonko's Wizarding Joke Shop

3-8-172, 3-10-217, 3-14-302 f., 3-14-312 f., 5-16-299, 6-12-228

The Three Broomsticks

3-8-172, 3-10-217, 5-16-299, 5-25-497 ff., 6-12-230

The Post Office

3-8-172, 3-10-217

Gladrags Wizardwear – London, Paris, Hogsmeade


The Hog's Head

5-16-299 f.

Derwish and Banges


Madam Puddifoot's

5-25-492, 6-21-437


5-25-492, 6-21-437



There are a few other goods and services mentioned, among which

All of these firms give the impression of being small-scale businesses in traditional trades. A typical example of this is how the Three Broomsticks' landlord Madam Rosmerta sounds quite like a chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce when she complains to the Minister for Magic:

4.b Traces of Large-scale Business

There are a few traces of use of business chains, nation-wide marketing, etc.:

Professor Slughorn is a snob, who enjoys the company of the children of the rich and powerful. For this reason we hear that there is a large chain of apothecaries:

The very publicity-minded professor Gilderoy Lockhart is the author of a row of self-heroic books. He praises Hermione and informs us of his marketing plans this way:

In book 4, a hundred thousand wizards from all over the world attend the Quidditch World Cup at a deserted moor in England. A gigantic blackboard flashes advertisements across the pitch:

These advertisements are giving a rather old-fashioned impression. It is not the marketing of international brands – the advertisements are only meant for British customers. It reminds me of the last page of the book Murder Must Advertise published by Dorothy L. Sayers in 1933. [Note 34]

According to what I have found in the Harry Potter books, there are only a few attempts to make use of advertisements. Branding, Human Resource Management or other, newer kinds of management are not touched on.

4.c Traces of Political Intervention into the Market

The books contain delicious parodies of our own world. Here is an example of Common Market regulations where Harry Potter is asking Percy Weasley, newly appointed secretary at the Ministry:

What is advantageous large-scale transport, and what is prohibited Muggle Artefacts? Here is a discussion between three colleagues at the Ministry of Magic Arthur Weasley, Ludo Bagman, and Mr. Crouch:

4.d Business Life in the Muggle World

Harry Potter stayed with his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon Dursley from he was one year old until he was 11 years old at the start of book 1. Every summer he is supposed to stay with the Dursleys. They treat him badly, and J.K. Rowling describes the family in a way so that you can only despise them.

Mr. Dursley is a manager on a drill factory. For this reason there are a few descriptions of ordinary business life:

Here are no traces of Knowledge Economy or other tendencies mentioned in section 2.c. Mr. Dursley lives outside the magical world. He is a manager at a drills factory. Here is anything describing that he is a boring person with a boring job.

4.e Analysis of the Business Life in the Magical World

In the above sections 4 - 4.c there are sufficient evidence to prove the following:

Summary: J.K. Rowling describes ordinary business life in the magical world as small-scale and relatively stable quite like Adam Smith saw business life in the ordinary world around him. However, there are traces of modern marketing in section 4.b.

'I don't go looking for trouble,' said Harry, ... 'Trouble usually finds me.' (3-5-85)