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Our books on social history explain all about different cultures and societies. They cover a variety of important historical eras.

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Social & Cultural History Books

  • Shakespeare's Strangest Tales

    Product Code: SHKT
    Hardback
    Hand-picked favourites
    Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, this compelling and entertaining book takes a look at the weird and wonderful stories from the theatres that have played host to the Bard's work.

    From fluffed lines to falls off stages, you'll get to find out about the terrible behaviour of the groundlings at the Globe, learn why the 'rude mechanicals' in A Midsummer Night's Dream were recast as a group of ladies from the WI and discover how Dame Maggie Smith got even with Sir Laurence Olivier.

    Curious and extraordinary, this collection of tales will entertain any fans of the Bard or the stage.
    • £1.00
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  • The Five

    Hallie Rubenhold

    Product Code: CDHVH
    Paperback
    WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019 THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER 'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories. PRAISE FOR THE FIVE 'Gripping' New York Times 'At last, the Ripper's victims get a voice... An eloquent, stirring challenge to reject the prevailing Ripper myth.' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears, of pity and of rage.' LUCY WORSLEY 'Dignity is finally returned to these unfortunate women.' PROFESSOR DAME SUE BLACK 'Haunting' SUNDAY TIMES 'What a brilliant and necessary book' JO BAKER, author of Longbourn 'Beautifully written and with the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart.' ERIN KELLY 'An outstanding work of history-from-below ... magnificent' THE SPECTATOR 'Deeply researched' THE NEW YORKER AWARDS FOR THE FIVE - Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction 2019 - Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019 - Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction - Shortlisted for the Historical Writers' Association Non-Fiction Crown Award - A New York Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, GQ, Washington Post, Oprah Winfrey Magazine and Independent Summer read/History Book of the Year
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  • Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

    Elena Favilli

    Product Code: AXDIA
    Hardback 7 years +
    (5)
    What if a princess didn't marry went on to become an astronaut? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom?

    Illustrated by 60 female artists from every corner of the globe, this essential book introduces children to 100 remarkable women including Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

    A truly empowering, moving and inspirational read.

    This title was shortlisted for 2018's British Book Award Children's Book of the Year.
    • £18.00
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  • Call the Midwife

    Jennifer Worth

    Product Code: AAIGM
    Paperback
    (2)
    Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction. Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer's stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.
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  • Chernobyl

    Serhii Plokhy

    Product Code: BTXIO
    Paperback
    Award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy's Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy is the winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2018. It's a must-read for anyone with an interest in modern history and those who have been compelled - and shocked - by the stunning Sky Atlantic TV series Chernobyl starring Jared Harris.

    On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate - and the blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation.

    This book draws on recently opened archives to recreate events in all their drama, providing a moment-by-moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of the Cold War tragedy.
    • £8.99
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  • McMafia

    Misha Glenny

    Product Code: BLWQH
    Paperback
    The extraordinary real stories that inspired the major BBC series Have you ever illegally downloaded a DVD? Taken drugs? Fallen for a phishing scam? Organised crime is part of all our worlds - often without us even knowing. McMafia is a journey through the new world of international organised crime, from gunrunners in Ukraine to money launderers in Dubai, by way of drug syndicates in Canada and cyber criminals in Brazil. This edition comes with a new introduction and epilogue from author Misha Glenny.
    • £7.89
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  • Twelve Years a Slave

    Solomon Northup

    Product Code: BAYAF
    Paperback
    The shocking first-hand account of one man's remarkable fight for freedom; now an award-winning motion picture. 'Why had I not died in my young years - before God had given me children to love and live for? What unhappiness and suffering and sorrow it would have prevented. I sighed for liberty; but the bondsman's chain was round me, and could not be shaken off.' 1841: Solomon Northup is a successful violinist when he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Taken from his family in New York State - with no hope of ever seeing them again - and forced to work on the cotton plantations in the Deep South, he spends the next twelve years in captivity until his eventual escape in 1853. First published in 1853, this extraordinary true story proved to be a powerful voice in the debate over slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War. It is a true-life testament of one man's courage and conviction in the face of unfathomable injustice and brutality: its influence on the course of American history cannot be overstated.
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  • Tribes

    David Lammy

    Product Code: CAZGP
    Hardback
    David was the first black Briton to study at Harvard Law School and practised as a barrister before entering politics. He has served as the Member of Parliament for Tottenham since 2000. Today, David is one of Parliament's most prominent and successful campaigners for social justice. He led the campaign for Windrush British citizens to be granted British citizenship and has been at the forefront of the fight for justice for the families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. In 2007, inspired by the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and looking to explore his own African roots, David Lammy took a DNA test. Ostensibly he was a middle-aged husband & father, MP for Tottenham and a die-hard Spurs fan. But his nucleic acids revealed that he was 25% Tuareg tribe (Niger), 25% Temne tribe (Sierra Leone), 25% Bantu tribe (South Africa), with 5% traces of Celtic Scotland and a mishmash of other unidentified groups. Both memoir and call-to-arms, Tribes explores both the benign and malign effects of our need to belong. How this need - genetically programmed and socially acquired - can manifest itself in positive ways, collaboratively achieving great things that individuals alone cannot. And yet how, in recent years, globalisation and digitisation have led to new, more pernicious kinds of tribalism. This book is a fascinating and perceptive analysis of not only the way the world works but also the way we really are.
    • £16.00
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  • Board Games in 100 Moves

    Ian Livingstone

    Product Code: BZLYX
    Hardback
    This is a Golden Age for board games. More people are playing games such as chess, Monopoly, Risk and Scrabble, than ever before! But how did these games, and so many others, come to be invented? Discover the compelling stories behind the creation of the board games we know and love to play: stories that have touched every aspect of people's lives down the ages. Our journey starts 8,000 years ago and takes you right up to the present day. On the way, each game will reveal the fascinating secrets of its origin and its lasting appeal. More than 100 games are explored chronologically, from the most ancient to the most modern, allowing you to see how similar types of games relate to each other. Each feature traces the story of a particular game, or a group of games. revealing origins, gameplay, and cultural impact and legacy. All kinds of board games are included: games from ancient times (Senet, Chess, Mahjong, mancala); Victorian race games (Ludo, Snakes and Ladders); modern classics (Cluedo, Ticket to Ride, Exploding Kittens); action games (Mouse Trap, Jenga); war games (Risk, Diplomacy) fantasy games (Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons), and much more. Delving into this fascinating book will immeasurably add to the pleasure and fun every time you open the box of your favourite game, take out the board, arrange the pieces, and start to play!
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  • Women & Power

    Mary Beard

    Product Code: BSVVS
    Paperback
    Britain's best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, our cultural assumptions about women's relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template. A year on since the advent of #metoo, Beard looks at how the discussions have moved on during this time, and how that intersects with issues of rape and consent, and the stories men tell themselves to support their actions. In trademark Beardian style, using examples ancient and modern, Beard argues, 'it's time for change - and now!' From the author of international bestseller SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.
    • £6.29
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  • The Secret Lives of Colour

    Kassia St Clair

    Product Code: BQWYC
    Paperback
    The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of the 75 most fascinating shades, dyes and hues and explores the vivid tale of our culture.

    From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso's blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, these thought-provoking stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

    Sunday Times bestselling author Kassia St Clair uses her lifelong obsession with colours to bring readers this unique study of human civilisation across fashion, politics, art and war.
    • £11.69
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  • Making Medieval Manuscripts

    Christopher de Hamel

    Product Code: BKPUF
    Paperback
    Many beautiful illuminated manuscripts survive from the Middle Ages and can be seen in libraries and museums throughout Europe. But who were the skilled craftsmen who made these exquisite books? What precisely is parchment? How were medieval manuscripts designed and executed? What were the inks and pigments, and how were they applied? This book looks at the work of scribes, illuminators and book binders. Based principally on examples in the Bodleian Library, this lavishly illustrated account tells the story of manuscript production from the early Middle Ages through to the high Renaissance. Each stage of production is described in detail, from the preparation of the parchment, pens, paints and inks to the writing of the scripts and the final decoration and illumination of the manuscript. This book also explains the role of the stationer or bookshop, often to be found near cathedral and market squares, in the commissioning of manuscripts, and it cites examples of specific scribes and illuminators who can be identified through their work as professional lay artisans. Christopher de Hamel's engaging text is accompanied by a glossary of key technical terms relating to manuscripts and illumination, providing an invaluable introduction for anyone interested in studying medieval manuscripts today.
    • £12.39
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  • Homo Deus

    Yuval Noah Harari

    Product Code: AXLUK
    Paperback
    Yubal Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow looks at the concepts and ideas that will shaped the 21st century - including AI. It asks where we go from today's digital world and how we can stop ourselves from destroying this fragile planet.
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  • Hidden Figures

    Margot Lee Shetterly

    Product Code: AWXZZ
    Paperback
    #1 New York Times Bestseller NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE Oscar Nominated For Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA's African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America's space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as 'Human Computers', calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these 'colored computers' used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA's golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women's rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of mankind's greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.
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  • London Labour and the London Poor

    Henry Mayhew

    Product Code: BIEFX
    Paperback
    With an Introduction by Rosemary O'Day. London Labour and the London Poor is a masterpiece of personal inquiry and social observation. It is the classic account of life below the margins in the greatest Metropolis in the world and a compelling portrait of the habits, tastes, amusements, appearance, speech, humour, earnings and opinions of the labouring poor at the time of the Great Exhibition. In scope, depth and detail it remains unrivalled. Mayhew takes us into the abyss, into a world without fixed employment where skills are declining and insecurity mounting, a world of criminality, pauperism and vice, of unorthodox personal relations and fluid families, a world from which regularity is absent and prosperity has departed. Making sense of this environment required curiosity, imagination and a novelist's eye for detail, and Henry Mayhew possessed all three. No previous writer had succeeded in presenting the poor through their own stories and in their own words, and in this undertaking Mayhew rivals his contemporary Dickens. 'To pass from one to the other', writes one authority,' is to cross sides of the same street'.
    • £3.59
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  • The Suitcase Baby

    Tanya Bretherton

    Product Code: CCNPI
    Paperback
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 NED KELLY AWARD, DANGER PRIZE AND WAVERLEY LIBRARY NIB True history that is both shocking and too real, this unforgettable tale moves at the pace of a great crime novel. In the early hours of Saturday morning, 17 November 1923, a suitcase was found washed up on the shore of a small beach in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. What it contained - and why - would prove to be explosive. The murdered baby in the suitcase was one of many dead infants who were turning up in the harbour, on trains and elsewhere. These innocent victims were a devastating symptom of the clash between public morality, private passion and unrelenting poverty in a fast-growing metropolis. Police tracked down Sarah Boyd, the mother of the suitcase baby, and the complex story and subsequent murder trial of Sarah and her friend Jean Olliver became a media sensation. Sociologist Tanya Bretherton masterfully tells the engrossing and moving story of the crime that put Sarah and her baby at the centre of a social tragedy that still resonates through the decades. **Includes an extract from Tanya's next fascinating and chilling true crime story, THE SUICIDE BRIDE**
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  • How to Look at Stained Glass

    Jane Brocket

    Product Code: CCMYR
    Paperback
    The magical qualities of stained glass have an enduring appeal, but church windows tend to be ignored as a form of creative and artistic expression. How to Look at Stained Glass is a fresh, unstuffy guide, which explores the medium by themes, patterns, designs, and effects. Using an A-Z format to reveal a multitude of fascinating details - all the way from apples to zig-zags - it makes looking at gloriously colourful, artistically important windows entertaining and rewarding. This layman's guide requires no previous historical, artistic or religious knowledge and the A-Z miscellany is in keeping with the pot-luck mix of windows to be found in most churches. It covers all the major periods and styles from medieval to modern, Victorian to post-war, eighteenth century to Arts and Crafts, figurative to abstract, and examines the fascinating and evolving iconography of stained glass. Illustrated in black & white and colour and with a list of the top 30 places to see outstanding examples, How to Look at Stained Glass is all that is needed to make sense of and enjoy the array of stained glass windows in the churches of England.
    • £11.69
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  • Diecast Model Buses

    Simon Stanford

    Product Code: CBRHP
    Paperback
    The first diecast model buses date back more than sixty years, manufactured by well-known names like Lesney, Corgi and Dinky. Few buses and coaches were initially produced, and early models were treated primarily as simple toys for children. The idea of collecting and preserving these models became more popular in the 1980s as Exclusive First Editions began to enter the market, and early models are today highly sought after. Today, many magazines, clubs and events exist as the hobby thrives. Here, Simon Stanford takes a look at model bus collecting over the years and shows the wide variety of models on offer.
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  • The Man in the Red Coat

    Julian Barnes

    Product Code: CBOSD
    Hardback
    The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending takes us on a rich, witty tour of Belle Epoque Paris, via the life story of the pioneering surgeon Samuel Pozzi In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days' shopping. One was a Prince, one was a Count, and the third was a commoner with an Italian name, who four years earlier had been the subject of one of John Singer Sargent's greatest portraits. The commoner was Samuel Pozzi, society doctor, pioneer gynaecologist and free-thinker - a rational and scientific man with a famously complicated private life. Pozzi's life played out against the backdrop of the Parisian Belle Epoque. The beautiful age of glamour and pleasure more often showed its ugly side: hysterical, narcissistic, decadent and violent, a time of rampant prejudice and blood-and-soil nativism, with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine. The Man in the Red Coat is at once a fresh and original portrait of the Belle Epoque - its heroes and villains, its writers, artists and thinkers - and a life of a man ahead of his time. Witty, surprising and deeply researched, the new book from Julian Barnes illuminates the fruitful and longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France, and makes a compelling case for keeping that exchange alive.
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  • The Golden Thread

    Kassia St Clair

    Product Code: CAWYX
    Paperback
    ** A RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK ** 'Fascinating . . . The history of the world through the eye of a needle . . . I recommend this book to anyone' THE SPECTATOR 'A charming, absorbing and history that takes us on a journey from the silk roads to sportswear, from ruffs to spacesuits . . . I devoured this quietly feminist book' SUNDAY TIMES 'Joyful and beautiful' NATURE 'Will make you rethink your relationship with fabric' ELLE DECORATION All textiles begin with a twist. From colourful 30,000-year old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to what the linen wrappings of Tutankhamun's mummy actually meant; from the Silk Roads to the woollen sails that helped the Vikings reach America 700 years before Columbus; from the lace ruffs that infuriated the puritans to the Indian calicoes and chintzes that powered the Industrial Revolution, our continuing reinvention of cloth tells fascinating stories of human ingenuity. When we talk of lives hanging by a thread, being interwoven, or part of the social fabric, we are part of a tradition that stretches back many thousands of years. Fabric has allowed us to achieve extraordinary things and survive in unlikely places, and this book shows you how -- and why. With a cast that includes Chinese empresses, Richard the Lionheart and Bing Crosby, Kassia St Clair takes us on the run with escaped slaves, climbing the slopes of Everest and moonwalking with astronauts. Running like a bright line through history, The Golden Thread offers an unforgettable adventure through our past, present and future.
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  • Women, Race & Class

    Angela Y. Davis

    Product Code: CAWJT
    Paperback
    Ranging from the age of slavery to contemporary injustices, this groundbreaking history of race, gender and class inequality by the radical political activist Angela Davis offers an alternative view of female struggles for liberation. Tracing the intertwined histories of the abolitionist and women's suffrage movements, Davis examines the racism and class prejudice inherent in so much of white feminism, and in doing so brings to light new pioneering heroines, from field slaves to mill workers, who fought back and refused to accept the lives into which they were born. 'The power of her historical insights and the sweetness of her dream cannot be denied' The New York Times
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  • The Library Book

    Susan Orlean

    Product Code: CBQOE
    Paperback
    A New York Times Book of the Year, 2018 A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution - our libraries. After moving to Los Angeles, Susan Orlean became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986: who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why? With her characteristic humour, insight and compassion, Orlean uses this terrible event as a lens through which to tell the story of all libraries - their history, their meaning and their uncertain future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world. Filled with heart, passion and extraordinary characters, The Library Book discusses the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives.
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  • The Anarchy

    William Dalrymple

    Product Code: BZLKT
    Hardback
    In August 1765 the East India Company defeated and captured the young Mughal emperor and forced him to set up in his richest provinces a new government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a vast and ruthless private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation, dealing in silks and spices, and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than half a century it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000 men - twice the size of the British army - and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company's reach stretched relentlessly until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London. The Anarchy tells the remarkable story of how one of the world's most magnificent empires disintegrated and came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company, based thousands of miles overseas and answerable only to its shareholders. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, with a corporate Mogul now sitting in the White House, the story of the East India Company has never been more current.
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  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

    Shoshana Zuboff

    Product Code: BZJZY
    Paperback
    THE TOP 10 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER 'Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defense.' - Naomi Klein, Author of No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything and No is Not Enough The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us. The heady optimism of the Internet's early days is gone. Technologies that were meant to liberate us have deepened inequality and stoked divisions. Tech companies gather our information online and sell it to the highest bidder, whether government or retailer. Profits now depend not only on predicting our behaviour but modifying it too. How will this fusion of capitalism and the digital shape our values and define our future? Shoshana Zuboff shows that we are at a crossroads. We still have the power to decide what kind of world we want to live in, and what we decide now will shape the rest of the century. Our choices: allow technology to enrich the few and impoverish the many, or harness it and distribute its benefits. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a deeply-reasoned examination of the threat of unprecedented power free from democratic oversight. As it explores this new capitalism's impact on society, politics, business, and technology, it exposes the struggles that will decide both the next chapter of capitalism and the meaning of information civilization. Most critically, it shows how we can protect ourselves and our communities and ensure we are the masters of the digital rather than its slaves.
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