The Long History of Old Age

Front Cover
Pat Thane
Thames & Hudson, 2005 - Old age - 320 pages
Here is an absorbing and startlingly original illustrated study of one of the great - and most neglected - themes in all history: the ways in which society has perceived old people throughout the ages. From increased life expectancy and `grey gap years' to dwindling pensions, the pros and cons of aging is a constant theme, yet much of the debate continues to be based on assumptions and misconceptions about the past. Is it true, for instance, that people were considered `old' at fifty? How far have our ideas about the average life-span in previous centuries been distorted by infant mortality? Were the old respected and cared for? Did sexuality survive into old age? Here, for the first time, a group of leading historians address these and allied questions, writing vividly about a topic of great contemporary resonance that has for too long been surrounded by taboo. The visual evidence is a vital part of the story, and here the book is equally original. Drawing upon the rich legacy of art through two millennia, with works by a wide range of artists including Whistler, Rembrandt, Rego and Freud, this enthralling human story presents a picture that is sometimes compassionate, sometimes horrifying, but overall unexpectedly reassuring.

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