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Empire of Things


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The epic history of consumption, and the goods that have transformed our lives over the past 600 years.

About the Author

Frank Trentmann is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and directed the e5 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.


a monumental work that deserves a wide audience. It is both a highly engaging global history of consumer culture and a masterful synthesis of a vast body of literature ... There are few truly global histories of consumer culture, and no study is as meticulous or comprehensive. ... In sum, Frank Trentmann's Empire of Things is a masterpiece of historical analysis that offers a wealth of insights into material desire, changing social norms, state policies, transnational connectivity, and other themes in the history of consumption. Indeed, Empire of Things is a field-defining work that will surely be the standard by which global histories of consumption are measured. -- Professor Jeremy Prestholdt * American Historical Review *
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 *
You can't not learn something new here ... [An] epic tale -- Marcus Tanner * Independent *
A history not merely of consumption (and attitudes toward consumption) but also of the very idea of goods as a thing to be produced and consumed. Every page fascinates -- Stephen L. Carter, 'Great History Books of 2016' * Bloomberg *
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 -- John Preston * Daily Mail *
Laden with fascinating insights and accounts, the result no doubt of extensive research, this study spans not only six centuries and numerous civilisations, cultures and individuals but also finds time to comment on the beginnings, direction and outcomes of consumerism itself. This is a hugely impressive undertaking and an ambitious narrative -- James Sheridan * Irish Times *
A monumental book on a monumental subject ... Rich and illuminating ... No-one who reads it will think about consumer society in the same way * Revista de Libros *
[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 *
Jam-packed with telling facts and counterintuitive provocations ... Empire of Things is that rare tour d'horizon that expands your sense of what should count as the subject ... A bracing argument * New York Review of Books *

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