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Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First Hardcover – 28 Jan 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (28 Jan. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780713999624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999624
  • ASIN: 0713999624
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 5.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


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)

About the Author

Frank Trentmann is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and directed the £5 million Cultures of Consumption research programme. His last book, Free Trade Nation, won the Whitfield Prize for outstanding historical scholarship and achievement from the Royal Historical Society. He was educated at Hamburg University, the LSE and at Harvard, where he received his PhD. In 2014 he was Moore Distinguished Fellow at Caltech.

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