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.
"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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Reflections on what we own and how it owns us.