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Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  400 ratings  ·  50 reviews
From the author of the critically acclaimed England’s Dreaming, a landmark cultural history of youth

Teenagers —as we have come to define them —were not, award-winning author Jon Savage tells us, born in the 1950s of rockers and Beatniks, when most histories would begin. Rather, the teenager as icon can be traced back to the 1890s, when the foundations for the new century

Hardcover, 576 pages
Published April 19th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published 2007)
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Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interwar, history
When an American turns 21, it's supposed to be a big deal. Finally we've fully graduated from childhood, finally we can spend all of our spare cash on liquor... legally, finally we're liberated from the tight grasp of our parents. 21 is the final threshold, the official end of youth.

I wasn't terribly excited to turn 21, and when it happened, I yawned, answered a few phone calls, went to class, had a drink with my roommate, and went to sleep relatively content. On your 21st birthday, you're supp
Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I wavered between three and four stars on this book. On the one hand, there was a lot of fascinating facts, but on the other hand, it was interspersed with some very dull sections. Even though I learned a lot, it bugged me that Savage at times held up examples of the minority and then applied their actions with sweeping generalization to all adolescents. He even says in his introduction, "It may be argued that I have concentrated too much on the extraordinary rather than the ordinary, the extrem ...more
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Jon Savage's history of teenage from the 1860's or so thru the mid-1900's. Couldn't finish it...just didn't have the gumption. Savage can be & is a great writer but I wasn't interested enough in what this book has to offer. Disappointed. A bit too much sociology for me & not enough story telling. ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A history of the creation of the "teenager" from the late 1800s through the mid-1940s. Savage writes about a variety of youth movements from the Bright Young People to swing kids to Hitler Youth. He also examines how individuals such as Rimbaud or Leopold & Loeb or Anne Frank are representative or considered outliers for their generations. A very interesting way to encouter US and European history during this era. ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it
I wasn't really sure what to expect with this one. I figured it'd probably have an annoying amount of pop culture trivia and nostalgic narratives but hoped it'd also get into things like legitimate rebellion against authority versus rebelling just because it's fun, examples of youth groups being hijacked or surreptitiously created by business interests, constant change keeping generations from interacting with each other, kids rejecting everything about their parents' lifestyles instead of just ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Jon Savage went to Cambridge, but instead of doing what Cambridge grads normally do, he started writing reviews of punk shows for "Sounds" magazine, moved to Manchester where he befriended a new band called Joy Division and a scruffy young folk guitarist named Johnny Marr, and ultimately stumbled into becoming one of the finest Anglo-American pop culture commentators of the late 20th century. His book on punk, England's Dreaming, is THE definitive work on the genre and its origins.

Teenage takes
Sep 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Jon Savage (once again) did another amazing book. His book on British punk is essential, but this one - the history of the 'Teenager." And it is so hardcore that it stops in the 1950's, where most thinks the Teenage became 'teenage.' A remarkable history and the parts about the Hitler Youth is fascinating as well as disturbing. Savage is great.
May 31, 2016 marked it as to-read
David Bowie’s Formative Reading List of 75 Favorite Books
I am glad I read this but I really had to persevere. It was written in a somewhat scholarly manner with lots of sources and footnotes; not my usual recreational reading. Assuming it was written as a "popular" social history, it made for dense reading. Here's an example:

Within America, the simultaneous commercial exploitation and attempted control of youth gave rise to a paradox. The deep-mining of the psyche encouraged by advertisers began to throw up those very atavistic qualities that they wer
Profe Keith
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book years ago and only now read it. It is a bit imposingly thick and dense in text, but despite this is quite readable once it is wholly engaged. I read it as I began preparing material for a 20th Century class following the IGCSE curriculum. I reasoned that my high school students will be teenagers taking this class, so even a few gems gleaned from this book may make the material more relatable to my students.

It begins just prior to the 20th Century and ends just after the Se
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
My favorite thing I learned from this book is that, outside the funeral home where the funerals of Bonnie & Clyde were ongoing, the funeral home owner dissipated the crowd of unruly fans by spraying embalming fluid at them.

Compressing the years 1875-1945 into 465 pages and focusing on England, the US, and Germany, Jon Savage sketches in broad strokes what he terms "the prehistory of the teenager," arguing against the idea that youth culture is a strictly post-World War II phenomenon. Savage is
Andrea Janov
This book reminded me of my anthropology minor in college. I love diving deep into cultural histories, and this was better than I imagined. It covers a huge swath of time as well as many countries an cultures. There was a clear lens of World War II looming over the whole book, but it was still far more comprehensive than I originally assumed it would be. I learned a lot of context that was not taught in schools, the cultural norms of the times that give texture to the events of history, and even ...more
Mickey McIntosh
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When we think of teenagers, we think of the postwar era. Jon Savage however suggests the teenage youth culture goes further back. Starting from the mid 1870s to the end of World War II, this book takes a look at teenage culture and how their surroundings affected them. American, British, French and German teenagers are profiled as they asbord the worlds of fashion, lifestyle, music, movies and society in general, and how it shaped them, and how they interacted with the environment around them. A ...more
Trevor Smith
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book, that's finishing point is 1945, the birth of teenagers as we think of them today. The story of the White Rose movement in nazi Germany, something I wasn't aware of, is gut wrenching. Jon Savage is one of my favourite writers and this is a top, top book.
Jennifer Royan
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bowies-top-100
Savage is a tight, clever writer. The transformation of youths into teenage is fascinating and for lack of a better word, horrifying.

Armed with objectivity, one can see what they needed and were almost certainly never given - space to grow up away from commercialism and fine their selves.
Nick Huntington-Klein
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
Talk about thorough! A fascinating look at a wide range of social changes that I'd imagine most people know on a surface level but never thought too much about.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Phenomenalality murks and reigns. When demographical significance creates beauty.
Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culturalhistory
Author Jon Savage is best noted for writing what many consider to be the definitive history of punk rock- "England's Dreaming" (personally, I prefer Greil Marcus's "Lipstick Traces".) In "Teenage"- his new book- he gets all ambitious. Teenage is a straight forward social history of what Savage calls "the creation of youth culture." One of the facts i learned this book, was that socialologist/philosopher Talcott Parsons coined the term "youth culture" in 1943.

I think this book is a must read for
Feb 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Savage places the development of the teenage as a cultural construct from the late 19th-century to the present. Looking at it comparatively he studies Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States. Looking at film, literature, academic writing and popular culture this is an important book for anyone interested in the development of Western culture.

"The buccaneering individuality of the early nineteenth-century had become obsolete: it had fled across the Atlantic to the American frontier.
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An account of the changing fortunes of youth between 1875 and 1945 and the often confused reaction of the state and the media to a group that have always been difficult to control and understand - at once exploited, venerated and vilified, depending on the time they're living in (today's media being a case in point that not much has changed here). The book's a bit thin on the ground before WW1, but from there it's a good read - the disillusion that followed WW1, resulting in the Bright Young Thi ...more
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in YA lit
The book was actually fascinating if you enjoy learning about the teenage culture. It traced the development of the adolescent age group from the early 1890s to 1945. Savage talks about several youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, and their impact on the youth of the time. He talks about how young adults really had no voice until the first world war came around. You were either a child or an adult and there wasn't much in between. He focused on America and Europe through the time periods ...more
Jack Bates
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You were a teenager once, and so were your parents - and if you're younger than me, your grandparents too. But how did teenagers develop? Where did they come from and what formed them? How were they different from people who had their teens before the term was coined? An investigation into the development of 'the teenager' as a concept, focussing on America, Britain, and Germany.

Savage's book about punk, England's Dreaming, is one of my favourite explorations of pop culture and this is just as
Lacy Compton
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I picked up "Teenage" several years ago and flipped it open to use one chapter for a bit of research. It's been sitting on my shelf as one of those "to tackle" books for quite some time, and I'm so glad I finally did. "Teenage" traces youth culture and the history of the terms "adolescent" and "teenager" from the 1870s to 1945. At first, I was in shock that Savage didn't cover anything more recent, but once I hit the 20th century, I could understand why--teenagers have evolved incredibly since t ...more
Ken Dowell
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
While this book covers the period 1875-1945 I found the most interesting parts to be the chapters covering the times of the two world wars and the depression. These were tough times for young people who, when they weren’t being treated as cannon fodder, were always last hired, first fired. The author, who is British, covers the adolescent scene in the United States, France and Germany as well as the U.K. Unlike most social histories that focus on the prevailing majority, Savage devotes a lot of ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
An informative and worthwhile read that unravels our pop culture world, showing its origins and development up through 1945 -- the year that marked the beginning of the Teen Age. Insightful (material prosperity is a vice when disconnected from a moral foundation), disturbing (Nazi Youth; American cliques), inspiring (youth groups defied totalitarian regimes with greater or lesser success -- my favorites were the Zazous of France and Helmuth Hubener of Germany), and presents moral dilemmas (jazz ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Strange to think of the Nazis as a youth movement, but they were, apparently. Strange, too, to imagine a time when "teenager" was not a label with its own unique attributes. When I was 4 or 5 years old--this is one of my oldest and vaguest memories--my mom was driving me somewhere, and a guy with a mohawk was standing at a bus stop. I asked, "Why are all teenagers bad?" I've occasionally reflected on that query, which seems to me to indicate how thoroughly the ideas of teenagers as rebels and re ...more
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and heartbreaking, especially when you learn how the "muscular Christianity" ethic & militarization of schools in Britain and in Germany during the late 1800s and early 1900s contributed to the fervent pro-war culture that ended up slaughtering millions of young people in World War I. It's even more heartbreaking as you read about the whole thing happening again in the lead-up to WWII.
It's also riveting, reading about the sensationalist media in the U.S. during the late 1800s and th
Mark Stalcup
Jan 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, broad-ranging study of teenage culture's development in the early part of the 20th Century, with an encyclopedic and extensive sprawl across everything from WWI England to American jazz and zoot suits all the way to Nazi Germany, the Hitler Youth, and the teen jazz fanatics and students who opposed them, often at the cost of their lives. Savage has the terrific ability to meld pop culture with a historian and academic's incisive skill, and this is a thick book reads very quickly. We ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Dipped into this book when I was doing my degree many years ago and I gained some useful information from it while enjoying the lighthearted way the author wrote. Decided to go back to it to have a further read of those sections I had missed at that time. I was a little disappointed to be honest - the author was a little judgemental at times and some of the points made were a bit cliche. However, that aside, it did include some details that I hadn't known so made it an interesting read at points ...more
Apr 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
A very long and thorough book about the emergence of "teenagers" as sort of a subculture in the first half of the 20th century. The focus is mostly on America, England, France, and Germany, I guess to bring everything together under the all-encompassing mantle of World War II by the end, though it would have been nice to read something about teenagers from other countries, or to just focus on one country and go very in-depth.
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