Alain Corbin is one of the foremost social and cultural historians in Europe today. In this elegant and lucid study he argues that the 1860s were a crucial period for western civilization, characterized by radical changes in the way Europeans viewed themselves and their world.Focusing on France, Corbin shows how order was imposed on the urban space of its capital city, with the creation of great boulevards, airy apartment buildings, parks, lights and sewers. The whole of the country, he claims, was deeply affected by the new mobility of its population, and by the more rapid circulation of commodities and information.Using the example of prostitution, he describes the way in which new modes of social control and policing emerged. Throughout the period, he suggests, there developed a new concern for the self and the body, for the fashioning of appearances and all things intimate. Corbin argues that attention to personal hygiene now became a requirement, and biological anxiety was focused on the three social plagues of alcoholism, tuberculosis and venereal disease.Finally, he argues that, with the increase in the speed of travel and communication, marked changes took place in Europeans' conception of time, and in particular their desire for free time, time to oneself.The book will be welcomed by students and researchers in the social and cultural history of Europe, and of early modern France in particular.