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Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First Hardcover – March 29, 2016
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“[A] sweepingly detailed history of humanity’s passion for the possession of objects ... [an] epic chronicle.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Massively ambitious… Trentmann displays astonishing erudition across multiple disciplines.” (Washington Post)
“In this important book, Trentmann argues that our increasingly complex consumer societies have evolved over five centuries.” (Financial Times (A Summer Book of 2016))
“[B]ig, deeply researched and hugely ambitious.” (The Times Literary Supplement)
“Empire of Things is a masterpiece of historical research . . . a delight to read.” (The Times (UK))
“At last, a genuinely enjoyable book about our addiction to things.” (The Times, books of the year)
“Challenges the popular notion of a twenith-century ‘affluent society’ and offers, instead, an illuminating account of how our vexing and complex attachment to things has arisen across the past five centuries from an interplay of market forces, politics, war, indentity and emotion.” (The Times Literary supplement, books of the year)
“Sweeping, insightful and often surprising, this history of consumerism since the Elizabethans is itself a vast treasure chest of consumer pleasures, from coffee and chocolate to stuffed crocodiles. Fear of consumerism, Trentmann shows, is as old as consumerism itself: the Catholic Church inveighed against “luxury”, while by 1770 one Scottish writer was complaining that his countrymen had become “slaves to their own wants”. Yet Trentmann’s bustling, overflowing book is a refreshing antidote to snobbish doom-mongering, showing how credit cards and washing machines have liberated rather than enslaved us.” (Sunday Times, books of the year)
“Informed, detailed, and dynamic….Trentmann has created a valuable contribution to the conversation around consumption-a commendable fusion of scholarship and engaging writing.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Empire of Things isn’t just an insightful and surprisingly entertaining read, but a crucial one.” (NPR)
“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, Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, winner of the Whitebread Prize, and A World on Fire)
“Impeccably scholarly, vividly detailed, and delightfully written, Empire of Things is the indispensable starting point for anyone who wants to understand how, in the last half millennium, every effort to restrain consumers has failed, while revolutions in consumption keep piling up stuff and waste.” (Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of Millenium and Civilizations)
“Empire of Things is an extraordinary, Braudelian achievement. It is impossible to imagine that any one person would be able to do a better job than Frank Trentmann.” (John Brewer, author of The Pleasures of the Imagination, winner of the Wolfson History Prize)
“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)
Empire of Things by Frank Trentmann
This product is manufactured on demand using CD-R recordable media. Amazon.com's standard return policy will apply.--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This lengthy book has hundreds of footnotes for each chapter, which I like to read. New ideas are often tucked into footnotes. But looking at these notes is so tedious that reading is totally disrupted. Clicking on a footnote link takes you to the beginning of the notes chapter, not to the footnote within the chapter. The reader must page through the notes to find the desired footnote number. Fortunately, once at the note, the number can be clicked to return to the correct location in the book itself. This means the links to/from the notes work in only one direction, backward.
An additional, similar flaw occurs for the illustrations in this magnificent book. All are collected together at the end. There are over fifty illustrations accompanying this book. They are mentioned by number within the text. Why no link to the numbered illustrations at the end?There are no links.
This is otherwise an engaging, well written, detailed book with specific historic incidents about real people. The descriptions are accompanied by thoughtful analysis of choices and changes as the economy and cultures have evolved. Why not take advantage of what Kindle can add to pleasant reading?
The publisher created this Kindle on the cheap. Reader beware!
Trentmann explores the rise of mass consumption since roughly 1500 on a global stage - late Ming China (circa 1600) one of his first subjects. Much of his account focussed on US and western Europe but he does cover Asia, the socialist/communist experiment, some Africa, less so Latin America. A lot of attention to ordinary people, what they had and what they did. Neither celebrates nor condemns consumption, mostly explores the why, how, where, and effect, and in the process critiques many of the existing narratives about consumption (notably Galbraith's 'affluent society' thesis). Leaves the impression the zest for goods universal, an aspect of 'human nature' rather than dictated by social or cultural messages. Doesn't say much about advertising or marketing which means, my impression, it slights the mechanisms of our present regime of stimulation. Places a lot of emphasis on the role of the state in creating the conditions for consumption and shaping the character of that consumption, and this is well-argued. Indeed describes the infrastructure of consumption: public services, trade patterns, architecture, financial arrangements, and so on. Makes abundantly clear the significance of consumption in the past and present, how it has organized commerce and life - and becomes a bit gloomy when contemplating the future, the problem of waste.
My one caveat: consumption not just about "things," objects or solid goods, but, especially nowadays, about experiences like travel or streaming etc. Trentmann aware of this, and its roots in the past. But he always privileges the material self and/or materiality - that leaves me wondering, a bit uneasy. Still this is a grand work of history well worth the time and effort to master. Will require a second reading to fully appreciate Trentmann's achievement.
By the way, no problems with my Kindle edition - references to notes and illustrations work well.
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