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

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Product Details

$19.99  $18.59
Harper Perennial
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.9 X 1.7 inches | 2.35 pounds

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About the Author

FRANK TRENTMANN is Senior Lecturer in History at Birkbeck College and Director of the ESRC- and AHRB-funded Cultures of Consumption Research Programme.


"[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
"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
"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