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Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization

Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization

by Meredith F. Small


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An epic cultural journey that reveals how Venetian ingenuity and inventions—from sunglasses and forks to bonds and currency—shaped modernity.

How did a small, isolated city—with a population that never exceeded 100,000, even in its heyday—come to transform western civilization? Acclaimed anthropologist Meredith Small, the author of the groundbreaking Our Babies, Ourselves examines the the unique Venetian social structure that was key to their explosion of creativity and invention that ranged from the material to social.

Whether it was boats or money, medicine or face cream, opera, semicolons, tiramisu or child-labor laws, these all originated in Venice and have shaped contemporary notions of institutions and conventions ever since. The foundation of how we now think about community, health care, money, consumerism, and globalization all sprung forth from the Laguna Veneta.

But Venice is far from a historic relic or a life-sized museum. It is a living city that still embraces its innovative roots. As climate change effects sea-level rises, Venice is on the front lines of preserving its legacy and cultural history to inspire a new generation of innovators.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643135380
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 12/01/2020
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 571,622
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Meredith F. Small is a professor of anthropology at Cornell University and the author of Our Babies, Ourselves; What's Love Got to Do with It?; and Female Choices. She has written for Natural History Magazine, Discover, Scientific American, and is a commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She lives in Philadelphia.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 The Spark: Why Humans Invent, Create, and Explore 1

2 Venetians Created Themselves 20

3 The Seven Seas 43

4 A Most Serene Community 69

5 The Art of Medicine and the Idea of Public Health 96

6 Venetians Invented Consumerism 123

7 Venice Changes Money, Banks, Profit, and Brings Us Capitalism 163

8 The Written Word 183

9 The Venetian Way of Life: Leisure Activities 209

Afterword: Tourism, High Water, and the Future of Venice 225

Acknowledgments 245

Chronology of Venetian Inventions 249

Bibliography 263

Notes 287

Index 321

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