Today's nonfiction post is on Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Frank Trentmann. It is 848 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover has printing of a globe, a skull, and other items to give a worldwide feel to the book. The intended reader is someone who likes history, research intensive books, and odd but interesting subjects. There is no foul language, sex, or violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.
From the back of the book-
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. 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.
Review- This is a very interesting but dry read. The subject matter is interesting, the notes are very through, and the writing is good. The problem is that this book does get stuck in all the details. This book gives a global perspective about money and how we spend it. We get to see how money has changed over the past 500 years. Trentmann does admit that he is just giving a very brief summary about the subject but it does not feel brief. The notes are great if you are looking for research topics. The chapters were about one subject like spending money on food or entertainment but in the end everything fits together to give a whole picture. If you are interested in how money and spending then you should read this book.
I give this Three out of Five stars. I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.