In This Review

Fins de Siecle: How Centuries End, 1400-2000
Fins de Siecle: How Centuries End, 1400-2000
Edited by Asa Briggs and Daniel Snowman
Yale University Press, 1997, 248 pp

What started as a trickle of end-of-the-millennium books is now turning into a river, and this reviewer is not sure he wants to remain in the business when the torrent arrives in three years. The current volume, which began as a BBC radio series, enlists several eminent historians to talk about political, economic, and social conditions in England during the last decade of every century since the fifteenth. This richly illustrated volume is least interesting in its discussions of the political fortunes of the various English kings who happened to be in power at the end of their centuries. More compelling are the sharp social transitions that occur from one century to the next, and the growth of historical consciousness: the very sense of historicity that provokes books like this is itself the product of a very modern self-consciousness. This is one of the more interesting treatments of an essentially silly subject.