Fins de Siecle

Fins de Siecle : How Centuries End, 1400-2000

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As we approach the new millenniun, we find ourselves re-assessing the past and looking forward to the future. Has the prospect of a new century always provided a "sense of an ending"? In this book, experts on every century since the 14th each explore the characteristics of a different final decade and find that a consciousness of time has indeed influenced the way people perceive their place in history. The writers - Paul Strohm on the 1390s (when signs of a new time consciousness first emerged), Malcolm Vale on the 1490s, Ian Archer on the 1590s, Peter Earle on the 1690s, Roy Porter on the 1790s and Asa Briggs on the 1890s and 1990s - discuss what is common and what is distinctive to each period. Investigating cultural and intellectual attitudes, economic and technological developments and artistic, scientific and political change, they capture the atmosphere of each end of century. As well as the watersheds of history, the authors explore the daily lives of ordinary citizens, recounting personal histories and subtle shifts in diet, fashion and design, sex and gender roles and relations between rich and poor and the emergence of language. Illustrations from both high and popular art provide images of the cultural and social fabric of each community. The year 2000 will be the first millennium humankind has consciously experienced: we look back not 100 but a 1000 years, and in looking back we are better prepared to plan ahead. From the apocalyptic vision of medieval Judgement Day sermons to the decadence of the current fin de siecle, from the invention of printing to cloning and computerisation, this book is a guide to the future as well as to the past.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 252 pages
  • 162 x 245 x 17mm | 680g
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 84 b&w illustrations, 34 colour plates
  • 0300082630
  • 9780300082630

Review Text

As the end of the century and the millennium approaches it is appropriate both to look back to the past and forward to the future. It turns out that the sense of something finishing, but also of something greater beginning, is a feeling common to Western people at the close of every century since at least the 14th. In this beautifully illustrated and very readable volume an expert historian on each decade from the 1390s to the 1990s discusses the finality and the nostalgia, the uncertainty and the hope with which centuries end. Fascinatingly, ends of centuries seem often to have been characterized by remarkable cultural flowering coincident with political, economic and social crises and these essays reveal the impact of this on all people, high and low. (Kirkus UK)

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Review quote

"an extraordinary, panoramic view of British society in transition over 700 years." Amanda Foreman, the Independent "the contributors...have produced a series of unusually lively sketches." John Gross, The Sunday Telegraph "well timed...provides plenty of food for thought" Martin Jacques, The Observer

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About Daniel Snowman

Asa Briggs is one of Britain's most distinguished and widely published historians. He has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, and Chancellor of the Open University. Daniel Snowman has written several books on twentieth-century American social and cultural history. For many years he was Chief Producer, Features, at the BBC.

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