A magisterial narrative account of the creation and consumption of all forms of ‘culture’ across the European continent over the last two hundred years.
This compelling, wide-ranging and hugely ambitious book offers, for the first time ever, an integrated history of the culture produced and consumed by Europeans since 1800, and follows its transformation from an elite activity to a mass market – from lending libraries to the internet, from the first public concerts to music downloads.
In itself a cultural tour de force, the book covers high and low culture, readers and writers, audiences and prima donnas, Rossini and hip hop, Verdi and the Beatles, Zola and Tintin, Walter Scott and Jules Verne, the serialised novel of the 19th-century as well as ‘Dallas’ and ‘Coronation Street’. Included in its vast scope are fairytales, bestsellers, crime and sci-fi, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, comic strips, plays, opera, musicals, pop music, sound recording, films, documentaries, radio and television.
A continent-wide survey, this majestic work includes discussions of rock music under communism, Polish and Danish bestsellers, French melodramas and German cabarets, fascist and Soviet cinema. It examines the ways culture travels – how it is produced, transformed, adapted, absorbed, sold and consumed; how it is shaped by audiences and politics, and controlled by laws and conventional morality; why some countries excel in particular genres. It examines the anxiety and attraction felt by Europeans towards American culture, and asks to what extent European culture has become Americanised.
Stylishly written, devoid of jargon, this is global non-fiction narrative at its best.
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‘Unique and encyclopedic…a monument to streetwise and cosmopolitan scholarship.’ Guardian
‘An absorbing, illuminating and enjoyable book…anyone with an interest in the development of culture…will find it interesting, informative and surprisingly entertaining. It is also packed with good sense.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Never less than penetrating in his comments…this…book shows how British historians such as Sassoon…now occupy the commanding heights of comparative European history and analysis.’ Financial Times
‘Donald Sassoon has to be congratulated for his immense ambition…it is full of dense detail and he has mastered a considerable body of evidence.’ Spectator
About the author
Donald Sassoon was born in Cairo and was educated in Paris, Milan, London and the USA. He is the author of a number of books on Italian history and of 'One Hundred Years of Socialism' (winner of the Deutscher Prize 1996), 'Mona Lisa' and 'The Culture of the Europeans'. His books have been translated into fourteen languages. He is currently Professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary, University of London.