Sassoon, Donald 1946-
Sassoon, Donald 1946-
Born November 25, 1946, in Cairo, Egypt. Education: University College, London, England, B.Sc., 1969; Pennsylvania State University, M.A., 1971; Birbeck College, University of London, Ph.D., 1977.
Pennsylvania State University, State College, teaching assistant, 1969-71; Walbrook College, London, England, faculty member, 1971-72; Hillcroft College, London, faculty member, 1975-79; University of London, Queen Mary College, London, lecturer in history, 1979-1980, reader in history, 1989-1997, professor of comparative European history, 1997—, Westfield College, lecturer in history, 1980-89, reader in history, 1989-97. Nuffield Social Science research fellow, 1997-98; Leverhulme major research fellow, 2000-03. Visiting professorship, Birbeck College, University of London, 1985-88, 1994-95; Université Libre Bruxelles, Belgium, 1993, 1996; University of Innsburck, Austria, 1993; and University of Trento, Italy, 1999; New York University, New York, NY, senior research fellow, 2001; Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, France, senior research fellow, 2002. Member, Scientific Board of the Zaninoni Foundation, Bergamo, Italy.
Social Science Research Council scholarship, 1973-75; Deutscher Prize, 1997, for One Hundred Years of Socialism; Nuffield Social Science research fellow, 1997-98; Leverhulme major research fellow, 2000-03; recipient of numerous grants.
(Editor) The Italian Communists Speak for Themselves, Spokesman (Nottingham, England), 1978.
On Gramsci, and Other Writings, Lawrence & Wishart (London, England), 1979.
Togliatti e la via Italiana al Socialismo: Il PCI dal 1944 al 1964, G. Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1980.
Contemporary Italy: Politics, Economy, and Society since 1945, Longman (New York, NY), 1986, 2nd edition, 1997.
One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, New Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Social Democracy at the Heart of Europe, Institute for Public Policy Research (London, England), 1996.
(Editor) Looking Left: European Socialism after the Cold War, New Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Becoming Mona Lisa: The Making of a Global Icon, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001, published as Mona Lisa: The History of the World's Most Famous Painting, HarperCollins Publishers (London, England), 2001.
The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present, HarperPress (London, England), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Communist Power in Europe, 1944-1949, edited by M. McCauley, Mac-Millan, 1977; Foreign Policy Making in Western Eu-rope, edited by William Patterson and William Wallace, Sacon House, 1978; The Politics of Broadcasting, edited by R. Khun, Croom Helm, 1985; The Image of Politics in the Televisual Information, ERI, 1986; The Popular Front in Europe, edited by H. Graham and P. Preston, Macmillan, 1987; Italian Politics: A Review, Volume 3, Pinter Publishers, 1989; Securing Democracy: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Europe, edited by Geoffrey Pridham, Routledge, 1990; Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85, edited by Andrew Graham, Routledge, 1990; A More Perfect Union? Britain and the New Europe, edited by D. Miliband, Institute for Public Policy Research, 1992; Defending Politics: Essays, edited by Iain Hampsher-Monk, St. Martin's Press, 1993; Italy and the Cold War: Politics, Culture and Society, 1948-58, edited by Christopher Duggan and Chris Wagstaff, Berg Publishers, 1995; The New European Left, edited by Gavin Kelly, Fabian Society, 1999; Nation Federalism and Democracy: The EU, Italy and the American Experience, edited by Sergio Fabbrini, Editrice Compositori, 2001; Approaches to a Cultural and Social History of Europe during the 1940s and the 1950s, edited by Richard Bessel and Dirk Schumann, Cambridge University Press, 2002; and Italy: Politics and Policy, Volume 2, edited by Robert Leonardi and Marcello Fedele, Ashgate, 2003.
Contributor to journals, including the Political Quarterly, Studi Storici, Politics and Power, Quaderni di Azione Sociale, Critica Marxista, Politica e Economia, West European Politics, Corruption and Reform, Italia Contemporanea, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Social Science Tribune, New Left Review, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Journal of Political Ideologies, History Workshop Journal, and Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Board member, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans and the Journal of Modern Italian Studies; literary editor, Political Quarterly and Hermès; editorial advisory board, I.B.Tauris (publisher). Literary editor, Politial Quarterly, 2000—. Sassoon's works have been translated into foreign languages, including Italian, Korean, Polish, and Chinese.
A British citizen who was born in Cairo, Egypt, Donald Sassoon has written extensively on Italian history and politics and is especially noted for One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, an expansive study of the development of socialism in Western Europe. He is also an expert on "The Mona Lisa." Writing in the New York Times, Paul Berman called One Hundred Years of Socialism "a genuinely major contribution to political understanding." The author traces the history of socialism from its beginning with Karl Marx in the late-nineteenth century on through to modern forms of socialism in Great Britain and elsewhere. Although he writes about communism, Sassoon is primarily interested in social democracy. "In Sassoon's opinion, European socialism has been in a profound crisis and unable to achieve its original goal: the creation of a new society qualitatively different from bourgeois society," reported Boris Kagarlitsky in Labour Focus on Eastern Europe.
In One Hundred Years of Socialism, Sassoon writes primarily of the socialists' policies when they have been power. In the process, he draws a broad picture of the socialist tradition. "Stylishly written, with an ironic wit and vivid gift of metaphor, the book is an unfailing pleasure to read," attested a contributor to the Economist. Referring to the book as "impressive," History Today critic Mark Bevir went on to write: "Sassoon rightly sees the history of socialism as entwined with that of capitalism: it arose as a response to capitalism, it has altered the trajectory of capitalist development, and its current task can be only to create a context in which capitalism wears a human face."
Contemporary Italy: Politics, Economy, and Society since 1945, first published in 1986, was updated in 1997. Divided into three parts focusing on the three aspects of Italy mentioned in the title, the book provides a comprehensive study of Italy, including its transition from an agrarian-industrial economy to a leading Western economy. Sassoon explores how the structure of the social classes has changed over the years, including the evolution of the role of women, and analyzes Italian elections and changes in government. Martin Bull commented in West European Politics that "it should be remembered that this is not simply an introduction to Italian politics, but something more ambitious, and the book is noteworthy for its perceptive interdisciplinary analysis and insights." Bull appreciated how the author "has the knack of illuminating his argument through imaginary examples aimed at the beginner."
As editor of Looking Left: European Socialism after the Cold War, Sassoon provides a series of academic essays focusing on a growing political convergence between the left and the right. The essays analyze Europe's social-democratic parties and issues such as employment, social life, civil rights, and welfare. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "the scope of the essays is broad enough to offer general readers a dispassionate … political survey."
Considered one of the top experts in the world on "The Mona Lisa," the author explores the famous painting's history and cultural impact in Becoming Mona Lisa: The Making of a Global Icon, which was published in England as Mona Lisa: The History of the World's Most Famous Painting. "The Mona Lisa," by Leonardo da Vinci, is considered by some to be the world's greatest painting. As he explores the cultural cult that surrounds the artwork, the author discusses the painting's subject, Lisa Gherardini, and traces the painting's travels through the world. He also delves into what Gherardini's enigmatic smile has meant from the perspective of the various people who have viewed it. Sassoon outlines how the painting helped popularize serious art and has subsequently been used in marketing campaigns to sell everything from chocolate to false teeth. "This is a terrific and long-awaited read, and great fun," declared Barbara A. Genco in the School Library Journal. Douglas McClemont, writing in the Library Journal, called Becoming Mona Lisa "thoroughly researched and highly readable."
In his 2006 book, The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present, Sassoon provides an integrated history of European culture from 1800 to modern times. "Sassoon tackles a topic of immense scale and resonance: the nature, reception, perception and dissemination of ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture—a subject singularly ignored by most historians," reported Daniel Snowman in History Today. Sassoon delves into how culture and cultural consumerism have gone from an elite to a mass market, spreading to encompass everything from lending libraries to the Internet. Covering everything from classic music by Giuseppe Verdi and the writings of Emile Zola to the novels of Jules Verne and modern hip-hop, his analysis includes fairy tales, best-selling novels, comic books, and radio and television programs. In the process, he covers all of continental Europe and examines how culture has been shaped by politics and audiences, as well as how it has been controlled by conventional morality and laws. Although Sassoon focuses on European culture, he also discusses American culture within the context of its influence on immigrants and the world.
In a review of The Culture of the Europeans for the London Telegraph, Allan Massie observed: "Sassoon writes clearly. His prose is rapid, agreeably free of jargon. He has a nice sardonic tone at times." Noting that the book "is full of dense detail and has mastered a considerable body of evidence," Spectator contributor Philip Hensher added: "It passes, too, a particular test in showing a regular interest in European cultures far from the centres of London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna, occasionally talking in quite a brave way about Polish periodicals and theatre in Bucharest, and there is even a dashing paragraph about the cultural life of Albania."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, January-February, 2002, Eric Wargo, review of Becoming Mona Lisa: The Making of a Global Icon, p. 70.
Booklist, November 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 538.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 1997, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, p. 211; June, 2002, P. Emison, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 1758.
Contemporary Review, December, 1997, review of Contemporary Italy: Politics, Economy, and Society since 1945, p. 331; summer, 2007, review of The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present, p. 271.
Dissent, winter, 1999, Harold Meyerson, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 105.
Economist, July 6, 1996, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 74.
Financial Times, September 15, 2001, Ben Rogers, "Portrait of a Lady: Identity Uncertain: Ben Rogers on the Forces That Propelled Leonardo's Picture to the Top," p. 5.
History Today, May, 1997, Mark Bevir, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 57; October, 2006, Daniel Snowman, review of The Culture of the Europeans, p. 64.
Journal of Common Market Studies, June, 1987, Geoffrey Pridham, review of Contemporary Italy, p. 388.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 1408.
Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, Number 60, 1998, Boris Kagarlitsky, "One Hundred Years of Reformism," review of One Hundred Years of Socialism.
Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Douglas McClemont, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 73; November 15, 2006, Martha Smith, "Mona Lisa: Inside the Painting," p. 70.
M2 Best Books, January 4, 2002, Ian Sanderson, review of Mona Lisa: The History of the World's Most Famous Painting.
Maclean's, January 21, 2002, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 47.
New Left Review, January-February, 1998, Geoff Eley and Goran Therborn, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 97.
New Republic, July 22, 2002, Rochelle Gurstein, "The Mystic Smile," review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 41.
New Statesman, January 11, 1980, Adrian Lyttelton, review of On Gramsci, and Other Writings, p. 55; December 20, 1996, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 117.
New York Times, August 3, 1997, Paul Berman, "Dividing the Spoils," review of One Hundred Years of Socialism.
Political Quarterly, January-March, 1997, Norman Birnbaum, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 102.
Publishers Weekly, March 2, 1998, review of Looking Left: European Socialism after the Cold War, p. 49.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 2002, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 191.
San Jose Mercury News, December 18, 2001, review of Becoming Mona Lisa.
School Library Journal, December, 2001, Barbara A. Genco, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 59.
Society, November-December, 1998, Robert J. Alexander, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 89.
Spectator, September 9, 2006, Philip Hensher, "The Continental Drift," review of The Culture of the Europeans.
Times Higher Education Supplement, August 2, 1996, Alan Thomson, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 26; December 8, 2006, Alex Danchev, "A Symphony of the Arts in High Notes and Banknotes," review of The Culture of the Europeans, p. 20.
Times Literary Supplement, November 8, 1996, review of One Hundred Years of Socialism, p. 21; May 8, 1998, Robin Blackburn, review of Looking Left, p. 6; January 19, 2007, Jay Winter, "Got the T-Shirt," review of The Culture of the Europeans, pp. 4-5.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 9, 2003, review of Becoming Mona Lisa, p. 6.
West European Politics, October, 1999, Martin Bull, review of Contemporary Italy, p. 244.
London Telegraph Online,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (October 9, 2006), Allan Massie, review of The Culture of the Europeans.
Queen Mary, University of London, Department of History Web site,http://www.history.qmul.ac.uk/ (November 6, 2007), faculty profile of Donald Sassoon.
Universite Paris 13,http://www.univ-paris13.fr/ (November 6, 2007), faculty profile of Donald Sassoon.