The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Carby Steven Parissien
The Life of the Automobile is the first comprehensive world history of the car.
The automobile has arguably shaped the modern era more profoundly than any other human invention, and author Steven Parissien examines the impact, development, and significance of the automobile over its turbulent and colorful 130-year history. Readers learn the grand and/i>
The Life of the Automobile is the first comprehensive world history of the car.
The automobile has arguably shaped the modern era more profoundly than any other human invention, and author Steven Parissien examines the impact, development, and significance of the automobile over its turbulent and colorful 130-year history. Readers learn the grand and turbulent history of the motor car, from its earliest appearance in the 1880sas little more than a powered quadricycleand the innovations of the early pioneer carmakers. The author examines the advances of the interwar era, the Golden Age of the 1950s, and the iconic years of the 1960s to the decades of doubt and uncertainty following the oil crisis of 1973, the global mergers of the 1990s, the bailouts of the early twenty-first century, and the emergence of the electric car.
This is not just a story of horsepower and performance but a tale of extraordinary people: of intuitive carmakers such as Karl Benz, Sir Henry Royce, Giovanni Agnelli (Fiat), André Citroën, and Louis Renault; of exceptionally gifted designers such as the eccentric, Ohio-born Chris Bangle (BMW); and of visionary industrialists such as Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche (the Volkswagen Beetle), and Gene Bordinat (the Ford Mustang), among numerous other game changers.
Above all, this comprehensive history demonstrates how the epic story of the car mirrors the history of the modern era, from the brave hopes and soaring ambitions of the early twentieth century to the cynicism and ecological concerns of a century later. Bringing to life the flamboyant entrepreneurs, shrewd businessmen, and gifted engineers that worked behind the scenes to bring us horsepower and performance, The Life of the Automobile is a globe-spanning account of the auto industry that is sure to rev the engines of entrepreneurs and gearheads alike.
This sweeping attempt to trace the development, dominance, and refiguring of the car offers some terrific glimpses at the vast and varied worldwide story of the automobile. Parisser, a versatile and enthusiastic English historian, offers entertaining vignettes of late–19th-century car pioneers, from German engineer Karl Benz and his first-ever long car trip from Mannheim to Pforzsheim and car maker Louis Renault. Parisser is at his best with encapsulated corporate histories of such automakers as Ford and Nissan. Along the way he offers devastating portraits of “out of touch” executives who oversaw the decline and fall of Detroit’s Big Three car makers in the decades after the energy crises of the 1970s, when “cheap oil and motoring became a thing of the past.” He highlights Roger Smith, the unlamented GM chairman from 1981 to 1990, whose tenure was marked by “business disasters compounded by appalling public relations blunders,” as well as maverick John DeLorean, whose attempt to make luxury vehicles sank “from tragedy, to farce, to movie stardom” thanks to his eponymous vehicle’s role in the Back to the Future movie franchise. Parisser is an enthusiastic writer, but his story gets mired with industrial insider references and descriptions of company mergers. (May)
“Steven Parissien's exhaustive, century-long global overview, The Life of the Automobile lavishes careful attention on the drama, rivalries and infighting that have propelled the industry...The book excels at revealing little-known lore about the titans who are commonly, but mistakenly, remembered as infallible geniuses...It would serve today's [auto] leaders well to remember the heroes and villains behind the cars that boomed and busted in Parissien's cautionary tale.” New York Times Sunday Book Review
“This elegant and authoritative work demonstrates the historical links among people, machines, and cultures on a global scale. For readers who enjoy investigations into social, intellectual, business, technology, or transportation history - as well as dedicated car buffs.” Library Journal (starred review)
“There are hundreds of wonderfully worth cars parked butt-to-snout in this monumental, well-polished survey--130 years of automotive stars and stinkers to please (almost) anyone… Mr. Parissien has compiled a serious history that should be welcomed by anyone with an interest in industrial history. What's more, the book is filled with…delightful trivia.” The Wall Street Journal
“This sweeping attempt to trace the development, dominance, and refiguring of the car offers some terrific glimpses at the vast and varied worldwide story of the automobile. Parissien, a versatile and enthusiastic English historian, offers entertaining vignettes of late–19th-century car pioneers, from German engineer Karl Benz and his first-ever long car trip from Mannheim to Pforzsheim and car maker Louis Renault. Parissien is at his best with encapsulated corporate histories of such automakers as Ford and Nissan. Along the way he offers devastating portraits of "out of touch" executives who oversaw the decline and fall of Detroit's Big Three car makers in the decades after the energy crises of the 1970s.” Publishers Weekly
“Parissien's exhaustive overview of the evolution of the automobile follows the classic story of this backbone of industrialization with its successes, rivalries, declines, and resurrections that continue to this day. From the Ford Model T to the Chevrolet Volt, Parissien covers every detail, including the sketchy safety and environmental record and a nod to the future of green technology.” Booklist (starred review)
“For the car completist, this is a soup-to-nuts (or nuts-to-bolts) history of the development of the automobile. From its start as a glorified bicycle in the 1880s to the development of alternative fuel cars of today, Parissien covers the high points (the "chrome age" in the 1950s) and the low ("the DeLorean") in this entertaining, enthusiastic history of all-things car.” New York Public Library, Book Notes from the Underground
“A good description and analysis of major players such as André Citroën, William Durant, Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche, Louis Renault, and Alfred Sloan. Overall, this is a well-written, interesting history of the car, painted in broad strokes.” CHOICE
“Takes a wide-ranging look at the machine that perhaps more than any other has shaped the modern world, its impact, and the human beings behind it.” Tampa Bay Times
“In The Life of the Automobile, Parissien, the director of the Compton Verney Museum and Gallery in Warwickshire, England, provides an encyclopedic world history of the car…. The Life of the Automobile is a treasure trove of information.” Tulsa World
“A fresh look [that will] fascinate anyone interested in the history of the industry.” Daily Express (UK)
“From a Ford Model-T, by way of glitzy Cadillacs, cool Golfs and hot Minis, to futuristic autos, this is an exhilarating ride over some bumpy roads.” Saga Magazine (UK)
“Parissien writes with particular engagement and authority.” Sunday Times on George IV
“This genial book succeeds as an exuberant cultural tour...truly 'Grand Entertainment.'” Financial Times on George IV
“A well-informed and elegant assessment of George's impact on Regency times, especially its culture.” Sunday Telegraph on George IV
A prominent British historian maps out the tricky, messy, world-changing history of the gas-powered automobile.In this straightforward history of cars, Parissien (Interiors: The Home Since 1700, 2008, etc.) begins by offering a concise origin story of the birth of the modern car and then launches into the oft-told tales of the slick behemoths who brought the product to the mainstream. "The men who were responsible for the creation and development of the global car industry were, for the most part, enthusiastic experts or fast-talking salesmen—or, like Henry Ford, a bit of both," writes the author. "Many of the first auto pioneers were larger-than-life characters." In addition to Ford, Parissien looks at the men who are mostly known as brand names today, including the rakish Louis Chevrolet, the brilliant engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, and the French pioneer Armand Peugeot. Focusing on the characters involved in this great drama would have led to more inspired storytelling, but the historian in the author is far too ingrained. He pulls the focus way back to give an undemanding accounting of the industry's peaks and valleys and the resulting effects on the social structures of America, Europe and Asia. There are a few entertaining moments—Parissien clearly understands the symbolism of the car as sex symbol—and there are nods to the cults of Volkswagen's Beetle and the Mini Cooper, as well as well-known iconography like Steve McQueen's Shelby Mustang in Bullitt, James Bond's Aston Martin, and the DeLorean DMC-12 and its prominence in the Back to the Future movies. However, the step-by-step narrative, pulled almost entirely from secondary sources, is a grind.An authoritative but dull chronicle of a colorful industry that leaches out most of the interesting parts of one of the world's great pastimes.
Parissien (director, Compton Verney House Trust, UK; George IV) explores the automobile from its beginnings in the late 19th century, through its 1920s and 1930s refinements, its classical period in the 1950s and 1960s, and on to the rocky decades after the international oil crisis, with global mergers and financial rescues in the 1990s and on through the start of this century. Readers meet the gifted but controversial carmakers Henry Ford, Karl Benz, Henry Royce, and André Citroën; designers Alec Issigonis, André Lefèbvre, and Giovanni Michelotti; and managers William C. Durant, Alfred P. Sloan, and Lee Iacocca. Regarding the anti-Semitic Henry Ford, we learn that Hitler frequently cited him as an early inspiration, that sections of Mein Kampf were taken from Ford's writings, and that Hitler had a life-size portrait of Ford hanging in his Munich headquarters. Parissien frequently takes to task the poorly run British car industry in light of the dynamism of its continental European, Asian, and American counterparts. Overall, he looks less at automobile technology than at the industrialists and craftsmen whose genius has kept the industry rolling. He also highlights consumer trends, promotional gimmicks, environmental challenges, union unrest, and the motorcar's impact on social mobility. VERDICT This elegant and authoritative work demonstrates the historical links among people, machines, and cultures on a global scale. For readers who enjoy investigations into social, intellectual, business, technological, or transportation history—as well as dedicated car buffs.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland
- St. Martin's Press
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Meet the Author
DR. STEVEN PARISSIEN is an internationally renowned author who has written extensively on cultural and architectural history. He is the director of the Compton Verney museum and gallery in Warwickshire and a visiting fellow at the universities of Oxford and Warwick. He lives in Oxford, England, and has one daughter.
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Bringing Humanity to History Has anything shaped the modern world more than the creation of the car? Stephen Parissien's The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car offers a comprehensive look into the past, examining the development of the car over a 130-year span. It covers each decade, beginning with the earliest automobiles and ending with modern auto company bailouts. A car is not simply a machine; it is a creation that took years of dedication and the minds of devoted figures. This book delves into the concepts designed by figures like Karl Benz, Sir Henry Royce, and the visionaries behind Fiat, BMW, Porsche, Ford, and much more. Readers will find a decent combination of quotes and secondary sources from the very first pages that explore "motor mogul" Henry Ford's death to the final pages explaining the bailout. Readers will walk away from this book with the notion that the history of cars mirror the entirety of modern history. Cars have changed the way we find entertainment, the way we do relationships, and even the way we think about war. This "elegant and authoritative" book gives us insight into the many changes prompted by the domination of cars as competitive status symbols and mechanisms of travel. If you do happen to be more of a auto-aficianodo, as a fellow reviewer seems to be, you may also find this book lacking in areas. For further reading, there are many deeper and dorkier texts on cars. A particular favorite of mine is by Allan Girdler, who is both an expert on motor vehicle history and a great writer - check out American Road Race Specials, 1934-70: Glory Days of Homebuilt Racers.
The one book I have really wanted in a very long time and I pressume it's amazing