Empire of Things

  • by Frank Trentmann
  • Narrated by Mark Meadows
  • 33 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.
Frank Trentmann is a 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 Harvard, where he received his PhD. In 2014 he was Moore Distinguished Fellow at Caltech.

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What the Critics Say

"Empire of Things is a masterpiece of historical research... 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." (The Times)
"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)
"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

essential reading

A wonderfully informative and scary book that explodes many modern myths about the society in which we live. A history designed to focus the debate where it needs to be, on our own collective behaviour.
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- Eoin

Reflections on what we own and how it owns us.


An amazing book that explores history and countries from a consumers points of view, revealing a lot more about humanity than I would ever have expected. It is like putting on the most unusual filter or tinted colour glasses and seeing a world makedly exposed to its desires and wants removing morality and political agendas to show how even the most powerful of ideologies bend to the will of its consumers and how that feeds all our need and inequities, driving us into the constant need for the new, the better, the bigger, the more powerful, the thing that declares who we are, our status or our lack of it.

An exposition of how we have grown in apatites, and how we have acquired those things we value and at what cost to us and to those that provide them. How this items have changed our society and brought change to others in the farthest corners of the world.

Explaining the conundrum of a consumerist communist China, the fall of the eastern block by the disillusionment of the masses in not being able to acquire like other societies and pushing for change for freedom to buy the same toys we buy.

It reveals the different points of views and morals different societies have had on lending and how it has grown to such a degree it threatens the very system that created it, while being the lifeline to many of our wants and the force behind industry and construction.

A must if you are interested in history and humanity, it will remove a lot of preconceptions and will reveal the consumer in all of us; buy this book, you need it you want it.
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- Wras

Book Details

  • Release Date: 28-01-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios