Christmas: a history

Mark Connelly examines the traditions which have contributed to the modern Christmas as an icon of cultural and social history.

The key elements of the modern Christmas evolved during the nineteenth century as a result of a complex range of social, economic and cultural forces.

Among the themes of the book are its Anglo-German origins and the idea of the bourgeois Christmas expressing family virtues; the liberal values at the heart of Anglo-American political, cultural and social life; the need for a touchstone with the past in an age of rapid expansion, and thus the myth of Merrie England; the revival of English music – perhaps the greatest age of church music and carols since the 14th century; printing and publishing and the increase in literacy; shopping and consumerism; and broadcasting.

Connelly links the rise of modern Christmas to the 19th-century values of family, empire and sentiment for old England. Today, a powerful media, obsessive consumerism and new forms of family life all condition our responses to the event.

‘Christmas: a history’ provides an original perspective on the West’s most enduring social and cultural institution.

You can find further details of Christmas: a history on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.