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Cultural consumption

Erudite and packed with information, Donald Sassoon's vast social history of European culture suffers from a lack of curiosity about cultural value

By David Herman   February 2007

The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present by Donald Sassoon (HarperPress, £30)

Donald Sassoon’s huge, ambitious book begins on the London underground. Many of the author’s fellow passengers have already started the day listening to the radio or watching television. Now they sit, reading novels and newspapers, listening to music, looking at the advertisements. “The tube,” Sassoon writes, “is heaving with the consumption of culture.” He contrasts this with 200 years ago. How many could read or write in 1800? And even if they were literate, how many could afford to buy a book? This cultural revolution,…

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