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Modernity and Bourgeois Life
Society, Politics, and Culture in England, France and Germany since 1750

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  • Date Published: May 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107666788

$ 34.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • To be modern may mean many different things, but for nineteenth-century Europeans 'modernity' suggested a new form of life in which bourgeois activities, people, attitudes and values all played key roles. Jerrold Seigel's panoramic new history offers a magisterial and highly original account of the ties between modernity and bourgeois life, arguing that they can be best understood not in terms of the rise and fall of social classes, but as features of their common participation in expanding and thickening networks that linked together distant energies and resources across economic, political and cultural life. Exploring the different configurations of these networks in England, France and Germany, he shows how their patterns gave rise to distinctive forms of modernity in each country and shaped the rhythm and nature of change across spheres as diverse as politics, money and finance, gender relations, morality, and literary, artistic and musical life.

    • Provides a new intellectual framework for understanding the making of modernity in Western Europe
    • Offers a new basis for comparing the histories of England, France and Germany
    • Integrates the histories of politics, society, economics and finance, gender relations, morality, Jewish life and culture
    Read more


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013

    Reviews & endorsements

    "This is an impressive work of synthesis which tracks more than a century of bourgeois life in Europe. And the bourgeois world Seigel conjures is a complex one, born of ever more tightly woven patterns of communication and exchange, never fixed but changing over time, and always an unstable mix of the structured and the fluid. Rarely has the subject been treated with such sweep and sympathy."
    Philip Nord, Princeton University

    "A virtuoso performance in a powerful survey with an eye for the telling contrast and the shrewd comparison: England - at once the most bourgeois and the least; France - homeland of revolution yet slow to change, and Germany, where bourgeois politics was expressed by not yet modern bourgeois classes."
    Donald Sassoon, Queen Mary, University of London

    "Jerrold Seigel dazzles the reader with an array of original arguments across European time and space, and gives new credibility to transformational claims for Western Europe's middle classes. He convincingly shows how the articulation of new bourgeois networks in various spheres of activity cumulatively altered European society and culture."
    Isser Woloch, Columbia University

    "Jerry Seigel’s ambitious and important new book offers a fresh interpretation of Europe’s ‘great transformation’ (1750–1914) that is as cogent as it is challenging. Immensely learned, vividly detailed and impressively comprehensive, Modernity and Bourgeois Life combines a broad synthesis of the social and cultural history of modern western Europe with an original and compelling argument regarding the place of bourgeois actors in the gradual and uneven emergence of modern life in economic, cultural and political realms. Beautifully written and sharply argued, Seigel’s narrative is shot through with luminous insights, telling individual portraits and clear and engaging explanations of sometimes quite difficult material. A pleasure to read, Modernity and Bourgeois Life invites its readers on a genial voyage of discovery, or re-discovery, of recent European landscapes they thought they already knew."
    Laura Lee Downs, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

    "In this masterful interpretation of modern European history, Seigel (emer., NYU) persuasively and lucidly argues that the essence of change has been the growth and transformation of the bourgeoisie … This work belongs in every academic library; it also deserves to be taken off the shelves and read by all students of European history. Uncommonly good. Summing up: highly recommended."

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107666788
    • length: 638 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.99kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: ends and means
    Part I. Contours of Modernity:
    2. Precocious integration: England
    3. Monarchical centralization, privilege, and conflict: France
    4. Localism, state-building, and bürgerliche gesellschaft: Germany
    5. Modern industry, class, and party politics in nineteenth-century England
    6. France and bourgeois France: from teleocracy to autonomy
    7. One special path: modern industry, politics, and bourgeois life in Germany
    Part II. Calculations and Lifeworlds:
    8. Time, money, capital
    9. Men and women
    10. Bourgeois morals: from Victorianism to modern sexuality
    11. Jews as bourgeois and network people
    Part III. A Culture of Means:
    12. Public places, private spaces
    13. Bourgeois and others
    14. Bourgeois life and the avant-garde
    15. Conclusion.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Art and Ideas
    • Constructing the Middle Classes
    • Cultural History
    • European Civilization Since 1815
    • The Making of Modern Europe, 1815-1918
  • Author

    Jerrold Seigel, New York University
    Jerrold Seigel is Kenan Professor of History Emeritus, New York University. His previous publications include The Idea of the Self (2005), Bohemian Paris (1986) and Marx's Fate (1978).


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013
    • Winner of the 2014 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies

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