Green: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau (Translated by Jody Gladding) - review by Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson

When Blue Met Yellow

Green: The History of a Color


Princeton University Press 240pp £24.95 order from our bookshop

For a relatively short book, Michel Pastoureau’s thought-provoking Green: The Story of a Color is crammed with so many intriguing facts and displays such wide and deep learning that it would be churlish to dwell at length on those aspects of his subject that he conspicuously neglects. Still, a spot of churlishness does no one much harm and can be a handy way of coming to a just verdict. (Does that word perhaps contain vert? Alas no – it comes from the Latin veredictum.)

Few scholars escape national bias altogether, and French savants in particular seem to have a tendency to assume that the way things are ordered in their own country is the way they are ordered everywhere. Irritable Anglophone critics have pointed out this tendency in the work of, among others, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu; and though the erudite Professor Pastoureau claims the history of the entire Western world from the Greeks until now as his purview, French writers, painters and fashions are far more generously represented than those of any other nation.

But the history of green looks rather different if considered from our green and pleasant land (Blake does not get a look-in), or indeed

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