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The Coffee-House: A Cultural History [Kindle Edition]

Markman Ellis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: £4.31 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

How the simple commodity of coffee came to rewrite the experience of metropolitan life

When the first coffee-house opened in London in 1652, customers were bewildered by this strange new drink from Turkey. But those who tried coffee were soon won over. More coffee-houses were opened across London and, in the following decades, in America and Europe.

For a hundred years the coffee-house occupied the centre of urban life. Merchants held auctions of goods, writers and poets conducted discussions, scientists demonstrated experiments and gave lectures, philanthropists deliberated reforms. Coffee-houses thus played a key role in the explosion of political, financial, scientific and literary change in the 18th century.

In the 19th century the coffee-house declined, but the 1950s witnessed a dramatic revival in the popularity of coffee with the appearance of espresso machines and the `coffee bar', and the 1990s saw the arrival of retail chains like Starbucks.

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Product Description


'Markman Ellis's fascinating and wide-ranging cultural history explores the evolution of the a phenomenon that started in Constantinople in 1554 and soon took the world by storm.' (THE INDEPENDENT)

'[In] this wonderful book... Ellis percolates a comforting cup of inspiration for the future.' (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

'[a] scholarly but always readable account' (DAILY MAIL)

'Markman Ellis has written a scholarly, well researched and thoroughly entertaining book. This is a hot, bubbling volume to be sipped and savoured.' (SUNDAY MERCURY)

'Detailed and meticulously researched... would interest anyone with an enthusiasm for social history.' (NEW BOOKS (May/June 06))


'[a] scholarly but always readable account'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1106 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New edition edition (12 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00550NZEI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • : Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #311,158 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I never knew coffee was so fascinating. 15 Sept. 2005
The title of this book does not do it justice - there is hardly an aspect of the history of coffee, let alone where it is drunk, that is not covered in this fascinating book. What's more, the author's lively style carries the reader along through all the twists and turns of the story. Who would have thought that the apparently harmless coffee-house would come to be viewed with such deep suspicion by the authorities? And the story goes right up to the present day,with the rise of the coffee-house chain. Watch out for the wicked picture of Starbuck's. Settle down with a good cup of coffee and enjoy a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 11 Sept. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As an academic work, Ellis' attention to detail, reliance on evidence and meticulous citations make the book a great read for anyone interested in learning more about the history of coffee and its cultural context. While one reviewer criticises the author for taking "more than 200 pages to begin to address coffee drinking in the 1800-1900s," I found the thorough treatment of the early impressions of coffee (when encountered by visitors to the Ottoman Empire) and its introduction to England to be a real strong point of the work.

Even a casual reader can appreciate Ellis' writing style as he often breaks from the traditionally "dry" historical accounts to include more humourous anecdotes. Similarly, he weaves a fairly seamless narrative throughout the text which makes it easy to follow on from one chapter to another. Still, the book is by no means a "fluff piece" so while a reader with no academic interests could certainly comprehend Ellis' narrative, they may not find it as interesting as another reader.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about coffee or even simply English history.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a remarkable and persuasive account of the rise of a specific form of public sociality in 17th-century England: the coffee house, a seemingly unlikely blend of middle eastern and Protestant values, thrown into fruitful alliance by the presence of a stimulating beverage - 'the wine of Islam', as Markman Ellis characterises it - a drink that served to introduce the discipline of sober public discourse into a hitherto booze-sodden British life.

Coffee, the world's second-most traded commodity (after oil), provided the catalyst for a novel kind of mercantile wide-awake club which led, eventually, to marine insurance (through Lloyd's Coffee House) as well as to Starbucks and Coffee Rebublic, complete with their array of newspapers and magazines in imitation of their historical forebears. Ellis does a good job introducing the characters behind the rise of the coffee habit, as well as elucidating the various contested meanings of the drink itself, but he is particularly good at recreating the locations in which coffee was first consumed, and what the act of consumption meant to its earliest customers.

After reading this, your frothy latte will never taste quite the same again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The art of coffee-drinking. 12 Dec. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because of late I have found developments of the seventeenth century, particularly of a scientific aspect, decidedly interesting. Whilst I had been aware for some time of the role that the coffee-house played in helping England, and particularly Oxford and London, emerge into the nascent 'modern historical times' from the exciting Renaissance period, I had become interested in the growth of coffee houses in England. Having been absorbed in particular in the life of Robert Hooke and his involvement in the development of the Royal Society and in scientific enquiry and research, I was becoming aware of how big a role coffee-houses played in the social life of London during the period of the English Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell and in the Restoration period of the later Stuart dynasty. I thought that the next book I read should be an account of the growth of the Coffee-house in England.

After reading several of the Amazon readers reviews of books on this topic I settled on this particular one by Markman Ellis. I was not to be disappointed. In particular I enjoyed the style of the author, one chapter seemingly leading me on to an interest in the next. The early chapters and how the coffee-house first began in the Ottoman Empire and found its way to Europe I knew nothing of. Some of the characters and the style of living appealed to my interests. The growth both of coffee-houses and of culture-house visiting in London exploded once the first was installed there. Who opened that first, particular coffee-house, where, and when I shall leave for your discovery.
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