1st Edition

A Cultural History of Laughter

By Abílio Almeida Copyright 2025
    128 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Is laughter a sin? Or is it man’s best medicine? Is laughter now trivialised, mechanised or even weaponised by contemporary media? This book explores the social history of laughter in the West, from classical antiquity to the present day. Engaging with a range of thought from Plato to Nietzsche, it moves from classical to modern thought, considering the changing emotional climate of societies – including the postmodern ‘dictatorship of happiness’ – and the role played by the technological changes of the last century in shaping our interpretation of laughter. A broad, historical study of the physical and emotional aspects of laughter, as well as its social role, A Cultural History of Laughter will appeal to scholars of sociology, history and cultural studies, among other fields of knowledge.

    Introduction  Part 1: Laughter and Thought: A Conflict between the 'Faces of Power'  1. Laughter in the Old World: How Laughter Became a Sin  2. Laughter in the Modern World: How Laughter Became the Symbol of Happiness  Part 2: Laughter and Society: An Analysis from the Outside In  3. Laughter in Different Social Atmospheres: The Multiple Meanings of Laughter in Different Emotional Climates  4. Laughter in the Progress of Media and Technology  Conclusion: To (not) conclude  Appendix: Supplementary Topics  Index   


    Abílio Almeida is a researcher at the Centre for Communication and Society Studies (CECS), Universidade of Minho, Portugal.