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Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (Hardback)
  • Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (Hardback)
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Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (Hardback)

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£30.00
Hardback 880 Pages / Published: 28/01/2016
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What we consume has become the defining feature of our lives: our economies live or die by spending, we are treated more as consumers than workers, and even public services are presented to us as products in a supermarket. In this monumental study, acclaimed historian Frank Trentmann unfolds the extraordinary history that has shaped our material world, from late Ming China, Renaissance Italy and the British empire to the present. Astonishingly wide-ranging and richly detailed, Empire of Things explores how we have come to live with so much more, how this changed the course of history, and the global challenges we face as a result.

"Utterly fascinating…. So busy and colourful that no review can do more than scratch the surface" - Sunday Times

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780713999624
Number of pages: 880
Weight: 1468 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 55 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Monumental ... A rich picture of the variegated human impulses that have impelled the history of consumption ... The sheer breadth of Trentmann's panorama is impressive and no one can fail to learn from it -- Adam Tooze * Guardian *
The first total history of consumption ... An original, ambitious account that begins in the fifteenth century, spans the globe, and examines a wide range of regimes, from liberal democracies to fascist dictatorships ... [Empire of Things] could hardly be more relevant -- Victoria de Grazia * Foreign Affairs *
[Empire of Things] is wider in scope geographically, historically and socially than anything preceding it ... The epilogue to this story of consumption is salutary: history is essential to our understanding of the continuing rise in material consumption far beyond a sustainable level * Ethical Consumer *
I have never encountered a work that so perfectly assesses the influence of shopping on the human experience. Empire of Things is a masterpiece of historical research but also, much more importantly, a delight to read ... This book consistently entertains while it informs. In contrast to so many historians, Trentmann has the ability to write for the multitude without compromising on intellectual rigour. A historian who can communicate is a rare and beautiful thing -- Gerard DeGroot * The Times *
Utterly fascinating ... What makes Trentmann's book such a pleasure to read is not just the wealth of detail or the staggering international range, but the refreshing absence of moaning or moralising about our supposed addiction to owning more stuff -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times *
Never overwhelms ... A book that can be dipped into and enjoyed at leisure ... Fascinating. You can't not learn something new here ... [An] epic tale -- Marcus Tanner * Independent *
In order for me to try to convince you of how good this book is, I need to point out just how unqualified I am to review it. I'm not an economist ... Nor am I a social historian. Yet I read Empire Of Things with unflagging fascination ... [Trentmann] is not only an elegant, adventurous and colourful writer, he also manages the tricky balancing act of being eminently sensible and gleefully provocative. All too aptly, he has produced a thing to covet. -- John Preston * Daily Mail *
An impressive work of synthesis and [...] a timely corrective to much existing scholarship ... Based on specialist studies that range across five centuries, six continents and at least as many languages, the book is encyclopedic in the best sense ... The implications for our current moment are significant: sustainable consumption habits are as likely to result from social movements and political action as they are from self-imposed shopping fasts and wardrobe purges ... Empire of Things pushes repeatedly against the literature that conceptualises consumption as a matter of individual choice alone ... Fascinating -- Rebecca Spang * Financial Times *
[A] masterwork ... Knowing the global history of consumption allows for the possibility of change. Trentmann's meticulously researched but readable treatise is an excellent start * PopMatters *
A sprawling ode to stuff * Wall Street Journal *
Trentmann's history of material culture is impressive in its breadth and scholarship. Anyone with compulsive buying disorder should buy a copy, or two, or three. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! -- Ian Thomson * Observer *
A magnum opus; a fine read; an encyclopaedic account of consumerism throughout the ages * BBC Radio 4 *
Studded with surprising examples and illuminating case studies, it's hugely thought-provoking -- Book of the Month * History Revealed *
Dazzling ... Truly global -- Donald Sassoon * Literary Review *
The focus of this huge and ambitious book is far wider than merely shopping ... Trentmann starts by eschewing moral judgments on consumerism - yet ends with a powerful environmental critique of over-consumption. In terms of waste alone, the impact of even a high-tech, services-based economy is shocking: even if production of many things we consume is outsourced around the world, we still consume those resources and produce CO2 as a result. It's difficult not to conclude, as he does, that we need "a deeper and longer-lasting connection to fewer things" -- Andrew Neather * Evening Standard *
In this magisterial volume, Frank Trentmann takes us through time and across national borders to provide a comprehensive history of how people the world over have come to live with more and more things. Here is the crucial backstory to every consumer exchange -- Lizabeth Cohen, author of 'A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America'
Empire of Things is something to behold; a compelling account of consumerism that revels in its staggering breadth and depth. Frank Trentmann has written a necessary and important book about one of the defining characteristics of our times -- Amanda Foreman, author of 'Georgiana', winner of the Whitbread Prize, and 'A World on Fire'
A professor of history at Birkbeck college at the University of London, Trentmann covers 600 years of consumer culture. But he also chucks several bricks into one of the most important debates in politics and economics today -- Aditya Chakrabortty * Guardian *
Mad-cap consumption dwarfs population growth and war as the most destructive - and apparently irreversible - source of pressure on the resources of our planet. But, despite tenacious academic efforts, we still do not know why we got into this mess. Empire of Things - comprehensively informed, impeccably scholarly, vividly detailed, delightfully written - is the indispensable starting-point for anyone who wants to understand how in the last half-millennium every effort to restrain consumers failed, while revolutions in consumption kept piling up waste and warnings -- Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of 'Millennium' and 'Civilizations'

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