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The benefits and drawbacks of solitude have surfaced in prose and verse for over two millennia. In more recent times, solitude has represented a consequence of modernity and a reaction against it. The capacity to enjoy being alone can make sociability bearable, whereas intense solitude represents a critique of the perceived ills of an increasingly crowded society.
In this path-breaking book, David Vincent explores how people have conducted themselves in the absence of company. He develops new understandings of the nature of solitude, and examines its practice in a wide range of social and intellectual contexts from the late eighteenth century to the digital age. Topics include lone exploration, the growth of solitary pastimes, the penal practice of solitary confinement, the impact of mass communication and urban living, solitude and religion, the emergence of loneliness as a public issue, and the consequences of the digital revolution.
The first long-run account of its subject, A History of Solitude will appeal to those in a range of disciplines, as well as general readers interested in an iconic issue of the modern era.