For many years, the term "fin de siecle" has been used to imply a
state of decadence which was thought to have pervaded 'civilized'
European society in the years around 1900. This volume of essays,
which draws on a very wide range of disciplines, argues that the
period was also one of dramatic constructive change.
This was the period of the rise of the giant corporation, of
mass production and mass consumption, and of the development of the
generation and distribution of electrical energy. Great strides
were made in the advance of mechanical road transport and in
aviation. Novel social features such as mass politics, mass media,
and mass sport involved the body of ordinary people who were
themselves becoming active participants in public affairs, popular
culture and leisure. In the arts, literature, aesthetics and
philosophy, complex reactions to contemporary social reality were
aroused and expressed. This was also the period which gave birth to
the study of quantum mechanics, relativity physics, the new
exploration of mental processes and the systematic study of
This volume forms part of a sequence of collections of essays
which began with "The Enlightenment in national context" (1981) and
has continued with "Romanticism in national context" (1988). In
preparation are "The Renaissance in national context," "The
national question in Europe in historical context," and "The
scientific revolution in national context." The purpose of these
and other envisaged collections is to bring together comparative,
national and interdisciplinary approaches to the history of great
movements in the development of human thought and action.
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