Happiness in World History traces ideas and experiences of happiness from early stages in human history, to the maturation of agricultural societies and their religious and philosophical systems, to the changes and diversities in the approach to happiness in the modern societies that began to emerge in the 18th century.
In this thorough overview, Peter N. Stearns explores the interaction between psychological and historical findings about happiness, the relationship between ideas and popular experience, and the opportunity to use historical analysis to assess strengths and weaknesses of dominant contemporary notions of happiness. Starting with the advent of agriculture, the book assesses major transitions in history for patterns in happiness, including the impact of the great religions, the unprecedented Enlightenment interest in secular happiness and cheerfulness, and industrialization and imperialism. The final, contemporary section covers fascist and communist efforts to define alternatives to Western ideas of happiness, the increasing connections with consumerism, and growing global interests in defining and promoting well-being. Touching on the experiences in the major regions of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America, the text offers an expansive introduction to a new field of study.
This book will be of interest to students of world history and the history of emotions.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Psychological Basics PART I: THE AGRICULTURAL AGE 3. Early Agricultural Society 4. From the Philosophers: Happiness in the Classical Period 5. From the Great Religions: Happiness – and Hope? 6. Popular Pleasures PART II: THE HAPPINESS REVOLUTION, 1700-1900 7. The Happiness Revolution in the West 8. The Expansion of Happiness? The New Expectations Encounter Industrial Society 9. Global Developments in the 18th and 19th Centuries PART III: HAPPINESS IN CONTEMPORARY WORLD HISTORY 10. Disputed Happiness, 1920-1945 11. Communist Happiness 12. Comparing Happiness in Contemporary Societies 13. Western Society in Contemporary History: Even Happier? 14. Happiness Goes Global 15. Conclusion
Peter N. Stearns is University Professor of History at George Mason University, USA. He has written widely both in world history and in the growing field of the history of emotions, and regularly teaches courses in both areas.
"Peter Stearns brings to bear in this compact volume his long and pioneering engagement with the history of emotions and his unsurpassed ability to synthesize vast amounts of information from different fields. The result is a bold and thought-provoking effort to extend research on the history of happiness to the global scale."
Darrin M. McMahon, Professor of History, Dartmouth College, USA, and author of Happiness: A History