Many people would see our current celebrity-obsessed age as standing in stark contrast to the past, when renown was based on solid achievements. Fred Inglis, in his Short History of Celebrity (reviewed here this week in Reviews in History), demonstrates that the ‘trappings of celebrity have been the necessary companions of fame of all kinds since at least the middle of the 18th century: particularly for those who lived by their reputations as painters, actors or poets, rather than on inherited wealth’.

Perhaps the classic example of pre-modern worldwide fame is that accorded to the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind in the 1860s, while Garibaldi (from a different milieu but the same era) was also written about as the first international media celebrity.