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Cult of Progress

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Oscar Wilde said, ‘Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.’ Was he right? In Cult of Progress, David Olusoga travels the world to piece together the shared histories that link nations. We discover what happened to art in the great Age of Discovery, when civilisations encountered each other for the first time. Although undoubtedly a period of conquest and destruction, it was also one of mutual curiosity, global trade and the exchange of ideas. A few hundred years on, we see how the Industrial Revolution transformed the world, impacting every corner and every civilisation from the cotton mills of the Midlands to Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt, the decimation of both Native American and Maori populations, and the advent of photography in Paris in 1839. Incredible art – both looted and created – relays the key events and their outcomes throughout the world.