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

Review From User :

"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.


Genre: History, Economics, Sociology

What we consume has become a central – perhaps the central – feature of modern life. Our economies live or die by spending, we increasingly define ourselves by our possessions, and this ever-richer lifestyle has had an extraordinary impact on our planet.
Expand text… How have we come to live with so much stuff, and how has this changed the course of history?

In Empire of Things, Frank Trentmann unfolds the extraordinary story of our modern material world, from Renaissance Italy and late Ming China to today’s global economy. While consumption is often portrayed as a recent American export, this monumental and richly detailed account shows that it is in fact a truly international phenomenon with a much longer and more diverse history. Trentmann traces the influence of trade and empire on tastes, as formerly exotic goods like coffee, tobacco, Indian cotton and Chinese porcelain conquered the world, and explores the growing demand for home furnishings, fashionable clothes and convenience that transformed private and public life. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought department stores, credit cards and advertising, but also the rise of the ethical shopper, new generational identities and, eventually, the resurgence of the Asian consumer.

With an eye to the present and future, Frank Trentmann provides a long view on the global challenges of our relentless pursuit of more – from waste and debt to stress and inequality. A masterpiece of research and storytelling many years in the making, Empire of Things recounts the epic history of the goods that have seduced, enriched and unsettled our lives over the past six hundred years.

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